In Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell, hipsters rub elbows with minor deities, angels spend their downtime getting stoned, and followers of Richard Dawkins are seen as irrational loonies. It's also a world where bad karma has very real consequences.

Darwin Carmichael is a typical Brooklynite. He lives in a dingy walk-up. He rides a bike to work. His roommate is an insufferably pretentious artist and his landlord is the Minotaur. He can't seem to eject the freeloading angels who are constantly doing bong rips on his couch. And he tries to appease his pet Skittles, a two thousand-year-old manticore with the personality of a twelve-year-old girl.

But Darwin has a rather damning problem: he accidentally caused the mental retardation of the Dalai Lama years earlier, leaving him in the karmic red. If Darwin doesn't find a way to balance his cosmic books, he's headed to Hell when he dies. It doesn't help that Darwin's best friend Ella is the karmic equivalent of a trustafarian thanks to her late parents – a pair of rock-star saints who inspire John Lennon levels of devotion.


The early Darwin Carmichael strips play largely on the absurdity of a Brooklyn populated by demi-gods and unicorns (the demons have taken over Manhattan). But as the series progresses, creators Jenn Jordan and Sophie Goldstein grow into the universe they've created. When gods and angels walk the streets, disciples of Richard Dawkins ask passersby, "Have you accepted Charles Darwin as your personal naturalist?" A literal muse can inspire a third-rate artist, but longs for inspiration of her own. In an inversion of the usual pet-owner relationship, immortal Skittles wistfully reflects on the humans who have owned him (Oscar Wilde, Jesus Christ, Batman). It's clear that they have a lot of fun with their world, but that fun has gotten gradually smarter.

They've also wisely taken their time getting back to Darwin's stories – how he wrecked his karma, how he first met Ella, and his attempts at redemption. It's given us time to care about the characters and understand the nuances of their relationships. Plus, amidst all that lovely worldbuilding, they've built up the suspense: What will happen when doomed Darwin finally comes face to face with the Dalai Lama?


[Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell]