Hanna is Not a Boy's Name stars a nameless zombie employed by a bouncing-off-the-walls hyper detective. Together, they investigate offbeat paranormal mysteries — and try not to get too many people killed in the process.
One gloomy night, a zombie appears on the door of Hanna Falk Cross, paranormal detective, looking for a job. He's surprised to discover that not only is this Hanna character not a girl, he behaves like a 12-year-old who's just bought his first grimoire. But the zombie has spent enough time idly sitting in graveyards, and Hanna is more than sufficiently affable, so the two agree to strike up a partnership. Before the zombie has a moment to catch his non-breath, he's pulled into Hanna's caseload, complete with vampire squatters, haunted theaters, and the occasional murder.
Hanna is Not a Boy's Name falls largely in the category of comedy-horror. The zombie's deadpan narration is the perfect foil to Hanna's boundless energy and tendency to leap without looking. As the comic's cast expands, we're introduced to a host of eccentric monsters: a neurotic vampire who can't wrap his brain around the notion of blood as food, an artsy werewolf with a high threshold for weirdness, the antisocial son of a selkie, and a misanthropic physician who seems to think insults are the best medicine.
But there's an unexpected heart running through the series. Because the zombie cannot recall his own name — or any of the other details of his former life — Hanna takes to testing out names for him. It starts as a running gag, but quickly turns to an affectionate joke between the two. Hanna offers the zombie a taste of the humanity he's forgotten, and the zombie is the watchful friend Hanna doesn't even know he needs. Beneath Hanna's happy-go-lucky exterior lurks a badly scarred boy, and Hanna is so determined to live life to the fullest that, without the zombie's help, he's bound to get himself killed.
For new readers, the comic's first arc is a little rough around the edges. Creator Tessa Stone experimented a great deal with typeset and paneling in those earliest pages, and sometimes her trial and error crosses from visually interesting to mildly irritating. Eventually, she settles into a style that remains unique and energetic while becoming infinitely more readable. At the same time, Hanna benefits from a deepening cast roster and some darker storylines.
Hanna has evolved into a wonderfully quirky comic, one that takes conventional horror tropes and infuses them with an off-kilter sort of warmth. The characters in Hanna may bicker and moan at each other, and nice people occasionally turn up dead, but there's a neat twist to having the vivacious, semi-inept detective at the center of it all. Through all the horrors and personal tragedies, Hanna's own philosophy is to keep smiling, keep moving forward, and just make the best of your situation. As much as his friends might roll their eyes, it's often his relentless optimism that holds everyone together.