Writer & Letterer: John Layman
Colorist: Jok & Mey
Cover Artists: Jok; Christian Ward; Hieronymus Bosch & Jok
Release Date: June 7, 2023
Alexander “Xander” Waterford hates frogs. He kicks and stomps them. He even makes speeches about them in school! So what happens when the frogs strike back? Let’s leap into In Hell We Fight #1 and find out!
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In 1870s Mississippi, Xander attended a one-room schoolhouse and spent afternoons exploring the wilderness. But lo, Bufobeelz, the Frog Devil, was much displeased by the tormenting of his kin. So the giant frog drowned Xander and cast his soul down to Hell. Now he hangs with Midori Fukada, a former Yakuza assassin, and Ernie Comstock, murdered by a cursed ax. When Midori wants something, she reminds Xander of drowning and makes him throw up. Ernie can pull an ax from his head as needed. Little Balpha-Dagon “Balphie” follows the trio everywhere, even though Midori chases him away because she hates demons. But this time, she lets him tag along. They’re playing for high stakes today. They’re going to hold up an ice cream van!
John Layman introduces us to In Hell We Fight #1 by telling us that Xander had many reasons to hate frogs. But then he doesn’t tell us any. Still, the 2008 discovery of the prehistoric frog Beelzebufo Ampinga seems to have inspired him. It took me a while to twig why Xander should find treasures from the river in his vomit, but that’s all part of the wacky fun.
In Hell We Fight #1 brings to mind Hellboy and the children’s novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. When Bufobeelz rises from the Mississippi River, with river grass coating her spotty, horned skin, she looks more charming than malicious. Hell seems a fanciful 1870s Mississippi, as pterodactyl-like birds fly over canyons and barren trees with jack o lantern faces. Balphie is endearing, while his father could rule any region of Hell that John Layman, Rick Riordan, or Dante Alighieri might take us to. As for the ice cream van: would you like a Scooby Snack? Well, would you?
Jok and Mey bring full spectrum color to In Hell We Fight #1. Richly decorated panels are filled with affecting characters, comic hijinks, and staggering vistas. Layman’s uppercase black letters in white dialogue balloons and colored narrative boxes are easy to read and follow. Sound effects accentuate the action without distracting. I especially like how symbols often replace words in dialogue balloons. You may have to think about them, but they’re a welcome innovation of the letterer’s art.
A fusion of American classics like Huckleberry Finn and Judeo-Christian visions of Hell, In Hell We Fight #1 bursts with endearing characters, fanciful situations, and comic romps sure to please the child in all of us.