Comic writer John Layman is perhaps best known for his seminal book Chew, which focuses on a cop with a special food based ability, and mixes comedy with tight action and adventure. In keeping with this theme, Layman and Jok’s new book from Image Comics, In Hell We Fight, written and lettered by him, with art from Jok, follows a group of 3 condemned souls and their unwanted yet needed demon ally as they work to steal ice cream from one of hell’s delivery trucks.
Following our three lost souls, all who happen to be from different time periods and who died in wildly different ways, issue one does a lot of heavy lifting to build out a compelling world. The opening pages show us how Xander, the first of our trio to die, was eaten by a giant frog after running away from a failed school presentation. This helps to easily set the comedic tone kept throughout, as we are introduced to the playground that is Layman and Jok’s hell and our other two main characters, former Yakuza rising star Midori, and mysteriously cursed Ernie. Shortly joined by an annoying and incompetent demon named Balphie whose dad happens to be the king of a large dominion of hell, the four characters set off on their ice cream heist.
Layman’s talent for character work shines through in this first issue, with a combination of compelling exposition and clever lettering choices, as certain characters speak in different ways, both literally in the words they say and figuratively in the way that Layman chooses to letter each bubble. The cunning yet often angry Midori frequently has her bubbles colored in red to express her anger, while the childish Balphie sometimes uses emojis or simple noises rather than words.
Layman’s sharp writing is intensely elevated by the dynamic art from Jok and colorist Mey. Their highly detailed hell is rendered beautifully, with a distinctly cartoony yet slightly horrific style that perfectly fits the hellscape being built. Jok’s character design is particularly impressive with each character, from background demons to our main players, all having distinct and interesting looks. Jok’s version of hell is unique and pretty, but still manages to hold plenty of horrors and suffering, as hell so often does. The tight storytelling in Layman’s writing is also enhanced through Jok’s clear knack for visuals, with a particularly effective choice to draw zoomed in panels within larger landscapes to highlight important visuals.
As the ice cream heist comes to an end, we learn that our intrepid adventurers may be in for more than they bargained for, but you’ll have to read yourself to find out why. I can’t wait to find out where this series goes next, and I know that fans of Chew will be delighted to return to Layman’s trademark tone and wit, while Jok’s unique style will certainly pave a way for artist superstardom. Layman and Jok are building out an exciting world here, one full of heart, horror, adventure, and mysteries making In Hell We Fight a clear book to watch.