When first sent the introductory issue of Dead Boy Detectives, I was immediately drawn to its charming mix of the supernatural with a "Hardy Boys" team-up. I had no idea the characters existed as long as they had in the pages of Sandman comics. The two boys were instantly likable and easy to get acquainted with. I can't keep up with every monthly title I'm introduced to, so I patiently waited for "Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors" to be released. Although the stories found in this first collection are entertaining, they feel like they're missing a certain element of mystery.
"Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors" collects issues one through six of the series as well as the short stories "Run Ragged" from the first installments of Witching Hour, Ghosts, and Time Warp. Dead schoolboys Charles and Edwin team up to solve mysteries after they discover both died under bizarre circumstances at the same boarding school. The deceased juniors befriend a tech-savvy teen crime investigator named Crystal who happens to be attending the same school they went to. The boys uncover a sinister plot to do away with Crystal while looking into their own deaths. Another adventure has the detectives trying to free a trapped spirit from being stuck in a mirror between dimensions.
Writer Toby Litt captures the English charm of the lead characters in "Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors." He does a great job blending the extraordinary world of the undead with all the emotions and fun that goes along with being a teenager. There's always something dark and disturbing on the surface, but the boys still worry about girls and other such things you would imagine would be irrelevant after death. All the stories found in the book are entertaining and well-written, but I felt they still missed a sense of puzzlement. I was expecting stories in the vein of Sherlock Holmes where the reader is led on a journey to discover who committed a particular offense.
Artists Mark Buckingham and Gary Erskine give "Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors" a classic flavor by not getting too hyper-realistic (ala Jim Lee) with their illustrations. They're obviously influenced by some of the greatest Golden Age comic book and pulp horror artists of that time. Their individual works perfectly capture the exciting world Writer Toby Litt has built upon and extended outside of the confines of the Sandman's world.
I was surprised how appropriate "Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors" was for teens. Although it's suggested for mature readers, I didn't notice anything that would steer me from letting a fan of "The Hardy Boys" read it. Crystal's parents are referred to using drug terms, but nothing really goes past that. There are scary images and violence, so I still wouldn't say it's a good idea to let anyone under thirteen pick it up.
"Dead Boy Detectives Volume 1: Schoolboy Terrors" may not have completely met my expectations, but it's definitely worth picking up. I just want the duo to get thrown into some "who-dun-it" type crime thrillers that keep readers on their toes. I have every reason to believe that Writer Toby Litt has what it takes to add a bigger dose of mystery to the monthly series.