Bad Kids Go to Hell has many elements that make it cult classic material. The rough art derived from Anthony Vargas and Chris Allen screams indie but with enough detail and skill involved to make it appear professional. There are times in the book where the lettering is a little awkward. However, those minute errs are compensated by the superb panel work. It has an eye catching impression on the audience. A lot of activity occurs on each page, but it doesn’t clutter the story or make it unclear. It makes it fresh and invigorating.
On top of that, the story itself has lewd quirks that spice up the story. Some of the students have violent tendencies, while the others have sexual ones. These tendencies expose themselves subtly and blatantly. Along with that, the characters have bad attitudes toward each other. This dynamic creates tension and spawns multiple conflicts that are counterproductive toward escaping the allegedly haunted library, where they serve their detention. The story in general has investigative qualities. Each character has their own theories concerning the cause of the murders. And as they try to discover the truth of the oppositional force, they learn the back story of the library’s property as well as the respective stories and reasons for detention. Overall, it makes Matthew Spradlin’s and Barry “Bazz” Wernick’s tale pleasingly comprehensive.
The most reasonable criticism for BKGTH would be that it’s a mash up of preexisting popular films, aforementioned in the first paragraph. Certain components don’t seem original. The kids from The Breakfast Club also had a Saturday detention in the school library. And the ghost is identified as an Indian Spirit, strikingly similar to the premise of Poltergeist. Even as I read it, I was a little bit skeptical. However, it doesn’t make the book overall unoriginal or dull. If anything, it’s almost like a tribute to those classics, as if the similarities are purposely blatant.
The most prominent flaw and strength in BKGTH is the ending. The ending is not some astounding twist that forces the audience to analyze the perception of their lives. It’s just a sweet ending. It’s a clever blend of irony and unsaturated misfortune. Granted, some elements of the ending seem sloppily thrown together with obscure details from the story, making it absurd. Also, other aspects are immensely clever. But when the end carries out to the dramatic finish, it leaves an impression that’s guiltily satisfying. Yet that’s a flaw with a thrilling piece like this. Preexisting knowledge of the ending may shatter the enjoyment of the book. Knowing the ending may take the fun out of the book, and demolish the reading experience.
Bad Kids Go to Hell is a thrilling and refreshing read, definitely differentiating from what’s usually published in comics.
According to the Internet Movie Database, the Bad Kids Go to Hell film (which features Judd Nelson, from Breakfast Club) is set to be released in 2012. If the movie is as cool as the book, then I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a cult hit. I only hope that it doesn’t overshadow the original incarnation.