Okay, I’ll be honest here, chances are you already know whether or not you want to read this thing.
Chances are, you probably already know about Beyond Belief from The Thrilling Adventure Hour* podcast, where the characters of Frank and Sadie Doyle originated. And I’m going to be perfectly honest, chances are you already know what you’re going to get if that’s the case. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker haven’t really changed much in translating their work for Image. It’s more stories about two members of Manhattan’s social elite hunting alcohol and ghosts, in that order of preference.
But if you don’t, this comic is a good introduction to both the Doyles, and the peculiar brand of humor in The Thrilling Adventure Hour. If you’re not familiar, there’s nothing here that will trip you up or cause you to bounce off the plot, as there’s even an origin story for the characters included in the issue. If you are familiar, then these are new stories, but it’s fairly easy to see what you’re going to get, and there’s still lots to enjoy.
Beyond Belief is about Frank and Sadie Doyle, the toast of New York’s society pages. They have a useful side business as paranormal investigators, which serves to help keep them in gin martinis and the other alcoholic libations they love so very much. This issue, they’re called to a friend’s new house to rid it of malevolent spirits, spirits that take the form of malevolent dolls.
It transpires that the house has a dark secret and a murderous past (as one does), and it’s up to Frank and Sadie to clean it out with fervor, gusto, and repeated trips to the liquor cabinet.
And that’s it. There’s really not much of a complex plot here. But the plot is basically a thin armature for the real meat of Beyond Belief, which is the constant banter between Frank and Sadie Doyle. Drawing influence from classic film noir-comedy The Thin Man in both rapid-fire banter and alcohol intake, the quips and wordplay flying back and forth at rapid pace with a running dialogue that takes place almost throughout the entire story. The running dialogue actually works almost as well on the page as it does in the audio format, and Phil Hester’s art does a good job of conveying the action from place to place.
The other main selling point is that Frank and Sadie have a ridiculous amount of chemistry with each other, but are allowed to be their own characters. It’s fairly easy to tell that the two of them love each other, even if Sadie has to drag Frank reluctantly through every supernatural adventure. Their affection never feels forced, and it never feels like they’re assimilating each other. They’re two distinct entities who love each other very much, and while it feels odd to say anything other than “Frank and Sadie Doyle”, they are a far cry from the couples in fiction who seem like they’re part of the same bland entity**.
The creative team also takes advantage of the visual medium to have the characters take a more active role in the plot, with Frank laying waste to demonic dolls with the help of a coat rack, and the couple journeying through strange and eldritch architecture while they banter. They also manage to work in a few visual gags, including one about “We must help these spirits.” Hester’s art keeps the lines clean and does a good job flowing from one point to the next, though while the art is perfectly good, the dialogue does far more of the heavy lifting.
In the end, if you’re already a fan of Beyond Belief, then this is going to be a worthy addition to the universe and the characters you know. If you’re not, then I can think olf no better place to start. I, for one, look forward to more of Frank and Sadie’s graphic adventures.
Full Disclosure: The reviewer received a PDF copy of issues #0 and #1 for review. They are also a fan of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and so are biased in that direction.
*And if you don’t, it’s free and some of your favorite people are in it. Probably.
**Like, say, just about any other couple in popular fiction these days.