by Jon Morris, David Hopkins, Paul Milligan, Matt Warlick, Leonard Pierce, Neal von Flue, RJ White and Carl Nelson
A new holiday-specific anthology series from Monkeybrain Comics, Boo! Halloween Stories #1 features more than half of a dozen creators and a few short stories in the spirit of Halloween. The book opens with a Reality TV show featuring ghoulish contestants who all will occupy a house to see which one survives the longest. The story pops in and out throughout the issue, providing breaks between the other shorts while maintaining a sense of continuity across the issue. The remaining three stories have completely distinct stories as a result of unique creative teams on each. There is a decent amount of humor and a serious number of puns and nods throughout the issue. As a whole, this first chapter tries harder than it should and its final product is only partially successful.
The opening Reality TV element that finds its way to reappear at other points in the issue has a good amount of humor. There are certainly some groan-inducing puns, but taken in the right way this makes for a good bit of fun for the issue. The first and second contained stories have some strong moments but are weighed down in their not very subtle agenda. In each, the authors find ways to work some personal angle about some other unrelated idea. These agendas are obvious and distracting. Commentary can be well used, even if the audience does not align with the message being delivered. In these instances though, the messages are quite on the nose and undermine the stories.
The art in each of the shorts differs greatly. Ranging from black and white to highly saturated coloring, the audience is exposed to a variety of visual styles. The Reality TV pieces are rendered in black and white and feature a fun, child-like cartooning that matches the tone. The second story’s art is louder both in emoting as well as coloring, and the third is mostly strong with some very good design. None of the art in these first three stories is distracting or problematic, though each is likely to connect with different audiences.
The final self-contained short story is well constructed, and it is the best segment of the book. This story, entitled Slaytrain, features a man longing to further distance himself from society. He takes job placements in more and more rural settings. On this day, however, he has been called into the city to fill in. The reader’s increasing dread, which is related to what is driving his anxiety about being near people, makes for a great reading experience. The art style for the book is fittingly nondescript. The coloring is muted and the detailing of the individuals is sparse. This keeps any ancillary distractions from occurring, leaving the audience to nearly obsess over the mystery, having been provided little else. This story falling at the conclusion of this book helps rebound the experience of the issue as a whole.
An anthology series can be risky because they are a mix of story styles, art and voice. Conversely, readers are likely to find something in an anthology issue that is agreeable and diminish that risk. In this instance, curious readers will be rewarded in giving this title a try, if only for its final story. Hopefully future issues contain a few more hits.