HEAVENLY BLUES #2 by Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo
With stellar characterization of the Salemite girl, Erin Foley, HEAVENLY BLUES #2 explores the farthest reaches of Hell as our thieves build their team. With Purgatory looming, Isaiah and Erin must find a way through the Archangel's labyrinths before Hell comes calling. Can our ragtag heroes survive?
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The Heist Commences!
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Who doesn’t love a good heist tale? After reinventing modern fantasy in HEAVENLY BLUES #1, writer Ben Kahn and artist Bruno Hidalgo return to Hell with a team of its greatest sinners. In HEAVENLY BLUES #2, Barbiel’s mission weighs heavy on Isaiah Jefferson and Erin Foley’s minds. Barbiel, a Heavenly angel with aspirations of power, tasked this pair with an impossibility: stealing a weapon of God from an Archangel. They face old wounds as they venture across Hell’s kingdoms. Building their forces from history’s most nefarious outlaws, Isaiah and Erin race against impossible odds as the gates of Heaven loom before them. But as Hell’s own legions threaten to ruin their party, can these Hellions survive the coming clash?

READ: Miss the first issue? You can read our review of HEAVENLY BLUES #1 here!

To the Heist!

Courtesy of Scout Comics

The main focus of HEAVENLY BLUES #2 is Erin Foley, the young Salemite who died during the infamous witch trials. During the overarching flashbacks, we learn that Erin lived in poverty. Wishing to extort gold from the town judge, Hawthorne, Erin devised a con to come out as a witch with the ability to multiply coins. Needless to say, Judge Hawthorne took the law into his own hands after the ruse was found out, giving Erin a one-way ticket to the fiery depths.

Back in the present, Erin and Isaiah travel between the different districts of Hell to gather their heist team. These travels bring them to the Egyptian kingdom, a Wild West saloon, and a slums district modeled after ancient Japan. In these travels, Isaiah and Erin gather Hell’s nefarious infiltrators and getaway drivers, all to appease Barbiel. As they begin plans to bypass the Archangel’s labyrinthine defenses, they receive word that the neighborhood has come alive. Hell has come to collect, and the team will have to fight to escape.

World-Building at its Finest

Heavenly Blues #2
Courtesy of Scout Comics

HEAVENLY BLUES #2 finds its success by further exploring Kahn’s brilliant version of Hell. In the previous issue, readers were granted a glimpse into a Hell that was eternal boredom, but there were hints at something more within its depths. A hierarchy exists within Hell based on the era of your death. Isaiah and Erin live in a city built over a river of fire, while the Egyptians have built a gleaming, golden city in a far-off corner. As Erin seeks out a former spy named Hideki Iwata, she finds drug dens for users of Voyeur, a substance that lets those in the afterlife witness the lives of their descendants.

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As our protagonists explore the intricate worlds of Hell, we gain a more nuanced perspective of it. Our prior understanding of the world is expanded slowly, giving us a chance to delve into the details of the broad boredom that previously defined the Hell-scape. This slow reveal of information lends it pertinence and interest. Kahn doesn’t overwhelm the reader with details; he trickles them out in manageable bites.

What makes this approach so successful is the ways in which the plot fits into this exploration. It makes sense for Isaiah to pursue these new aspects of the world because he cannot succeed without the men and women who live there. His motivations tie directly into the overarching and necessary world-building. This only reinforces the sense of importance and gives it a sense of urgency. We are exploring these territories for a reason. We aren’t tourists but part of the growing entourage for Isaiah’s heist.

Vulnerability of an Immortal Child

Heavenly Blues #2
Courtesy of Scout Comics

Kahn’s exploration of character in HEAVENLY BLUES #1 was brilliant. Because he showcased the moment of Isaiah’s death, Kahn gave his readers the opportunity to see who Isaiah was in life versus who he has become in Hell. My biggest issue with the first issue involved the sole showcase of Isaiah’s death. Erin, a character enveloped by intrigue, gave only subtle hints about her past, which felt like a failure at the time.

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Coming into HEAVENLY BLUES #2, I am happy to report that Erin has finally received her due. Again, we get the chance to witness her death, and it is horribly graphic. This is a young girl, strangled to death and sentenced to an eternity in Hell for trying to survive. Bundled up in that eternal afterlife is a unique vulnerability. Erin refuses to acknowledge the traumas of her past. She attends support groups for the dead (which is brilliant), only to storm out when the subject of her death comes up.

Speaking with Ben Kahn, I learned that this enmity stems from her inner vulnerability: “Part of the thinking with her is that she wants to be seen as an adult, and feels like she’s an adult, but she also has a bit of a child’s idea of adulthood. So she focuses on things like drinking, swearing, and being really aggressive.” While the new teammates only appear briefly in this issue, enough inner fear bubbles out of Erin to hold the interest of any reader.

Final Thoughts on HEAVENLY BLUES #2

HEAVENLY BLUES #2 is a nearly perfect follow-up to the groundwork set by Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo. With a focus on new lands of Hell and expert characterization of Hell’s youngest thief, HEAVENLY BLUES #2 succeeds by expanding on what worked so well in the first issue. Bruno Hidalgo is back with his surreal artwork. He lends a subtle, frightening edge to the dark humor and metaphysical discourse of the issue.

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While some of the characterization faltered, Kahn has enforced that he will further explore characters in future issues. Each issue has distinctly delved into each hero’s backstory, giving us deeper insight into their past and present lives. While Kahn could do more issue to issue, the flashbacks lend a nostalgia and intrigue into the work. Any fans of supernatural stories need HEAVENLY BLUES #2 on their bookshelf.

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