Written and Art by Zander Cannon
Heck Hammarskjöld and his mummified assistant Elliot are in the business of closure – that is, closure between the living and the recently departed. Join Heck and Elliot through an emotional and thrilling escapade into the depths of Hell and their own morality, all while making a profit and some personal growth on the side.
Heck is the story of a former hometown star Hector “Heck” Hammarskjöld, who turns his dead father’s basement portal to Hell into a business opportunity to ferry messages and settle inheritance disputes between the living and the deceased. With his assistant Elliot – a hero-worshiping waterboy turned completely bandaged manservant – Heck embarks on a Dante-inspired journey through the levels of Hell as he confronts all sorts of demons and sins, including his own.
This is a fantastic and captivating tale as writer Zander Cannon creatively remakes the Hell of Dante’s Divine Comedy, from the tiered layers based on sins to the divisions including the burning City of Dis. Heck even encounters the same mythological creatures as Dante – Minos, the Minotaur, Geryon, Satan himself, etc. I especially love the way Cannon crafted for Heck to stay in touch with his client as he searches the depths of Hell.
This particular tale follows Heck as he is hired by his high-school crush to deliver a letter to her recently deceased husband. He eagerly accepts to gain some brownie points. Elliot shows hesitation to returning to the underworld, possibly showing a better memory of the danger and the revelations but the inability to voice them in his maimed and bandaged state. Even still, he remains committed to Heck as the two traverses through Hell on this latest journey.
The book has a very surreal feel, as Heck’s actions and moods are guided by the level of Hell he’s in. The transitions find him seamlessly appearing from one level to another, all working within the book’s own dream-like logic.
That dream-like flow and relation to the living world is one of my favorite aspects of the book. Heck acts like going into Hell, while dangerous, is old hat for him and Elliot. But as we follow his journey, it feels as though every time is new yet probably the same. Upon returning, he only remembers the truly significant events as fleeting memories from last night’s dreams, as something important happened but he can’t quite make out what.
With all of that, there’s also a fair share of action. Heck does epic battle with some of the forces of Hell, and it’s just as thrilling as the emotional journey.
The only thing I can think I’d want out of this story is more. I thoroughly enjoyed Heck’s descent into the depths of Hell and his confrontation of his personal sin. His personal journey grabs the reader as we relate with his emotional states. I’d like to see what would happen if Heck travels somewhere other than Hell. The story sets up other adventures for the character and even the premise of Heaven existing too. Also, I really want to know what happened to the unicorns.
Zander Cannon pulls double duty with the art in addition to writing. The entire story is told in black and white, horizontal comic strips. The strips are longer than they are tall, which makes for an interestingly-sized book.
No gray shadings are inside the book, aside from the metaphorical kind. All the inking and lining is thick and distinct. The simpler art style both adds to the surreal feel of Hell and gives the book a pulp feel, fitting as Heck himself comes across as a pulp adventurer hero exploring a fantasy world.
Some of the panels are rough and skewed when the characters are out of focus or in the background, but those are few and far in between.
Overall (Not an Average)
Heck is a fun and moving fantasy adventure, with a deeper side exploring our own human morality and sins. This release comes in a nice hardback worth having on any shelf or coffee table.