The saga of Bethany Black in Hell ends a bit anticlimactically.
This series has always been about challenging the conventional wisdom by presenting the slow and steady redemption of a girl left behind by the Rapture. Despite her flaws and doubts and powers, Bethany is slowly coming to terms with herself and her very unique place in the world. Bethany is somehow, despite herself, becoming a force for good both in the supernatural and physical worlds – worlds that are so close to each other in this series that they nearly overlap.
So the idea of sending Bethany to Hell seemed intriguing. She is a force for good, or perhaps a force for God, but at the same time she’s not a believer. She wasn’t cast up to Heaven in the Rapture, as all truly good people were, so the God of this series sees her as a sinner. And yet she’s not in any way evil. As Bethany states in this issue, “If I’m gonna make a plea to God for entrance to Heaven then the first thing I’ll have to abandon is my natural instinct to examine the motivations behind His doctrine. Research indicates that He is not a fan of that. What makes this so problematic is that all I can see are the holes in His logic. And questioning Him feels so utterly correct.” How can she reconcile herself and still seek approval in God’s eyes? A trip to Hell seemed like it might focus the character, cause her to see some deeper truths about herself. Unfortunately, despite the horrors she endures, Bethany really doesn’t change much as a character.
The tribulations Bethany experiences seem somehow trivialized by the ease by which she escapes Hell. In some ways she escapes even stronger than she always has been – confident, serious, with a plan and with friends. Hell wasn’t the shattering experience that it might have been for a girl like her, a place where she was forced to confront everything that is meaningful to her. Instead, she lives the horror of a quiet domestic life and hears lies about her father that are explained away in the epilogue. The trip to Hell didn’t affect Bethany in a deep way; instead, she just treats it as another annoying experience in life after rapture.
Don’t get me wrong, this series still carries a lot of power. Not many comics travel the road that this one travels, and Remender does a nice job of keeping the book intense and serious. It just feels like Bethany is floating along in the story in this issue, not really experiencing the events in a deep way.
The ever-changing artistic roster of this series also takes away from the story’s power. Mick Farritor is on board this issue and does a nice enough job. But it feels like this series really needs a steady artist, one who will stay with it for a few issues and bring a steady look for Bethany, Mouse and the rest.
Despite my complaints, this issue, like most other issues of this series, offers a lot for readers. I just wish that Bethany could have felt the pain of Hell a bit more intensely.