Cartoonist: Jeff Martin
Publisher: Rent-A-Thug Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An office comedy featuring the working demons that process people's souls into hell.
It's Office Space meets Strange Planet, but in Hell.
This review covers all the material going into the HELL, Inc. Kickstarter book, which includes all of the available webcomic pages as well as two short arcs exclusive to the physical release.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Doug, a middle level demon in HELL, Inc. tries to be a good employee, but suffers from low morale. And no wonder, he is repeatedly reprimanded for minor mistakes and misunderstandings with his supervisor, B. L. Zebub. As a result, he is forced to teach the new intern how to do her job and show her around the office.
Through this lens, Doug is able to show off the absurdity of his office to the intern and reader, all while he continues to fumble his job and suffer the continued onslaught of humiliation from his jerk of a boss.
In all this chaos, will Doug ever find meaning in his nine to five? For that matter, will he ever be able to connect to his office mate, Bridget, whom he has not-so-subtle feelings for? Time will tell in this weekly comic strip from Hell.
Martin's cartoony art style keeps things lighthearted in such a way it feels like it could be in your Sunday paper.
The writing is rather sharp, full of relatable moments and nailing the crushing malaise of a bad office working environment.
True to form, each individual strip is good for one or two small laughs, all while building the momentum of the story.
Martin has a bit more patience than most webcomic artists and is willing to stay with a story arc for as long as he needs to and will delay a punchline for as long as it needs to land properly.
HELL, Inc. does a lot with its setting and premise, putting an interesting spin on the tired office comedy formula all media has been inundated with since the mid-2000s.
There's some interesting work with lettering that keeps the personality of the comic lively and interesting to read, even over dozens of pages of comic strip.
Martin uses a ton of red to color backgrounds, characters, and small details, which is standard in depicting his setting. He is, however, careful to never make the page look monotone and creates a richer comic as a result.
The bonus short comics at the end of each arc enrich the world and show old jokes in a new perspective that works really well. These are only available in the Kickstarter book, but they're definitely worth the investment over the web-comic version
WHAT DOESN'T WORK
The setting adds a lot of the office comedy formula, as I indicated before, but it doesn't change what it is: another in a long line of office comedies. If you're sick of the genre, this isn't going to turn you into a fan.
The comic stays pretty safe in its subject matter for a comic set in Hell. Not that it has to be raunchy or edgy to be fun, but, personally, it feels like there's wasted potential in the premise.
For the most part, it's funny, but not all the jokes land. When they don't, they tend to kill the pacing and overstay their welcome. Not a deal-breaker, and certainly not unexpected in a form that expects a joke every other panel, but it's still there.
Clarity can be an issue sometimes. Once or twice, it's not clear what action is being made and the main character looks really similar to another that appears frequently, which can make their shared scenes confusing.
The plot can be a bit boilerplate. Office troubles, bad boss, secret crush, down-on-his-luck-every-man protagonist; the setting does differentiate it slightly, but you probably already know the steps by now.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Web-comics tend to be scatterbrained and can be difficult to follow with little payoff unless you want to invest years into following them week to week. HELL, Inc. is an exception. It's focused, funny, and just original enough to be interesting. On the other hand, it'll be familiar to anyone who's ever watched TV in the modern age or read a Sunday paper, which is a great balance to reach.
This genre lives and dies on its relatability and the moment-to-moment antics that break up a typical workday; this comic has that in spades. There's a lot of personality and quick wit in the characters and dialogue, which makes it light and fun to read. It's not particularly groundbreaking, but if you're the kind of person that enjoys watching re-runs of The Office, you'll definitely enjoy it.
The Kickstarter for the physical copy of this project ends on Wednesday, September 18 at 4:00 PM, so if this comic is something you're interested in, you should follow the link below to contribute to the project.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Redcoats-Ish: Jeff Martin's War Of 1812 by Jeff Martin
Dilbert by Scott Adams
Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle
If you like the art:
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Jeff Martin – Cartoonist
Multitalented: Does all the writing, line art, lettering, and coloring the covers
Test of Time: Has been drawing comics full-time since 2013
Outlander: Lives in Edmonton, Alberta
HOW DO I BUY IT?
After the Kickstarter is over, you can pre-order it on the web comic site below. But if you want those Kickstarter bonuses, you better contribute before September 18th!
Click one of these:
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