The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1

Writers: Ben Acker, Ben Blacker
Illustrator: M.J. Erickson
Colorist: Brittany Peer
Letterer: Mike Fiorentino
Cover Artist: Jonathan Case
Variant Cover Artists: Natacha Bustos, The Little Friends of Printmaking, Sean ‘Cheeks’ Galloway
Publisher: Boom! Studios

Review by Stacy Dooks

When I was a kid in the before time of the long long ago that was Nova Scotia in the 1980s, I made the discovery that one of my local radio stations used to play old-time radio dramas, under the banner of Theatre of the Mind. The fare was eclectic to say the least: from pulp heroes like the Green Hornet to crime dramas like Dragnet to creepy anthology shows like the Black Museum,  I ate it up. Radio dramas (and the audio productions we enjoy today) relied heavily on the audience to paint the picture based on dialogue, music, and narration. It was the intermediary step in the development of popular entertainments from literature to the feature film.

I still love listening to these old-school epics whenever I can, so when I made the discovery that writer/producers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker had created a comedic series of serials in the style of old-time radio under the banner of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, I was hooked. Features like Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, Amelia Earhart Fearless Flier, and Jefferson Reid, Ace American were all affectionate parodies of the serials I used to enjoy. With characters as rich and fun as those found in the audio broadcasts, it was only natural that Acker and Blacker’s creations would find their way to the comics page, and they did in a Dark Horse comics collection a little while back. Now, the characters return for a new crack at bat with The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1, featuring the characters from one of their most popular serials: Beyond Belief.

Meet Frank and Sadie Doyle: toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages, and, oh yes, they see ghosts. Imagine Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man as (mostly) functional alcoholic mediums, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from Beyond Belief. Our heroes are high society folk in a nameless city who frequently find themselves fending off supernatural shenanigans of all stripes. When a potential client walks through their door, they find themselves on what they think is a routine job: go to a haunted house and persuade the resident specter to move on before happy hour is over. Needless to say, things take a turn for the decidedly spooky.

One of the challenges that a creator attempting a funny book faces is that if the characters are constantly laughing off the danger, you can’t really expect the reader to feel there’s any amount of jeopardy for the heroes involved. If everything’s just an excuse for a one-liner, then any suspension of disbelief or potential worry for the fate of the protagonists evaporates and you’re left with something fun but ultimately not very satisfying. Fortunately Acker and Blacker have written Frank and Sadie Doyle for a while now and, although The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1 starts out as a traditional piece that wouldn’t be out of place on their show, I was pleasantly surprised by how things ended on a note of genuine dread. Within the comics medium, there’s less of a need to play up the jokes for the laughter of the audience and more of an opportunity to actually place them in a genuine horror story. I’m not sure that’s where the story is headed but this new chapter in the Doyles’ saga has me intrigued.

The Verdict: Buy it. 

If you’re a fan of supernatural comedy a la The Frighteners or a romp with witty protagonists tossing martini dry one-liners back and forth like champion players at Wimbledon, The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1 is guaranteed to provide you with a ghostly good time. Recommended.

Stacy Dooks
Stacy Dooks is a writer and assorted pop culture fanatic whose childhood fixations on the works of Jim Henson, George Lucas, and DC Comics laid the groundwork for his current status as a pop culture junkie chatterbox. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta while he waits for his TARDIS coral to finish growing. For more of his observations on popular culture, check out The Fanboy Power Hour:

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