cover image Hell Phone, Vol. 1

Hell Phone, Vol. 1

Benji Nate. Silver Sprocket, $14.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-945509-82-7

Nate (Catboy) jams out a quirky and stylish supernatural mystery that still hits her sweet spot of slice-of-life friendship comics. Sissy finds an old flip phone on the street, and when an unknown caller starts giving her odd directions, she enlists the help of her best friend, Lola. The pair become embroiled in a decades-old plot concerning the disappearances of their friend Trent’s mother and Lola’s old classmate Holly Daniels, as they follow the clues uttered by the “weird demon hell phone” to a storage unit full of old VHS tapes and eventually to Holly’s grave site and her diary buried there, which unlocks the secrets of the town. Nate’s strong sense of color and design shine; it’s a veritable lookbook of funky fashion choices, as the characters change costumes frequently (with quips like “I was having trouble picking out a grave-robbing outfit”), drawn in bold lines and a bright, limited palette. Comedic elements such as Lola putting out an electrical fire with beer (“It’s all I have!”) land, but the stakes never feel quite real, and while a cliffhanger intrigues, the tension tends to be a bit too slack. Still, for a first attempt at suspense and horror, Nate could do far worse, and there’s energy to spare for a next volume. (Mar.)