October inevitably means the release of spoooooooky themed comics, often several weeks before the actual date of Halloween. This makes sense: comics have a shelf life of weeks, not days, so it’s best to push this stuff out now rather than waiting for the actual week of Halloween when the appeal of the product will expire in a few days. As always, the younger-set publishers are offering some easily digestible Halloween comics that touch on the macabre without being age-inappropriate. Let’s look at two of them.
Adventure Time Halloween Spooktacular
Writers: Adam Cesare, Alyssa Wong, Grady Hendrix, Chris Lackey
Artists: Christine Larsen, Heather Danforth, Slimm Fabert, Kate Sherron
Letters: Warren Montgomery
Covers: I.N.J. Culbard, Jordan Crane
So the annual Adventure Time Halloween Spooktacular is out and, it’s got two drawbacks, one of which I’ll get to in a bit. The first is, as with last year’s, the price. Last year’s title must have been successful enough that Boom! didn’t find a $7.99 tag to be cost-prohibitive, but seriously, an average comics shop reader could probably get two titles for eight bucks, maybe three if they’re clever, or hell, they could get eight $1.00 Marvel reprint books. It’s fair enough to say that a 42 page book is double the size of a regular issue (this week’s Adventure Time/Regular Show #3 is $3.99, so the math checks out), but damn, seeing the tag on a single issue of a seasonal book is the scariest thing here.
The book is fine, sure, in only that way an Adventure Time comic can be. This year’s Spooktacular focuses on Peppermint Butler by exploring his darker side that’s been hinted at on the show. Three of these stories are just fine for kids, with the shorts appropriately blurring the line between humor and the macabre, such that the darker aspects of the story really seem silly as opposed to satanic. It’s weird to see, for example, Peppermint Butler engaging in some kind of summoning ritual to decide what his footwear should be, but there you go. “War of the Magicians” gets a little more engaging as Finn and Jake pay a longstanding debt to some powerful Vegas-inspired wizards, complete with the cartoonish humiliations of being sawed in half and being forced to wear showgirl drag. Peppermint Butler is less used in that story, but he’s still there with a silly, sly twist at the end. And thirdly, “Gumball’s Masquerade” bends the gender a little further with a look at the Rule 63 universe with Peppermint’s female counterpart, Butterscotch.
The last story, “Candy in the House,” is a bit too dark for my tastes, as it no-kidding features P.B. seeking shelter in a mysterious house and getting slipped a mickey by his all-too-creepy host. There might be generalized lessons about avoiding strangers in here, and indeed, this story plays on our 21st century fears of letting kids trick-or-treat alone, but there’s some weird sexual overtones to this story and too much of the dialogue reads like a double entendre. I’m going to be chariable and hope this wasn’t the author’s intent, and maybe I’ve just been ruined by seeing too many molestation stories. Still: if you read too much into this story, ick.
Anyway, that story notwithstanding–and the potential sexual thread probably going over kids’ heads–this book is, once again, pricey. If you love Adventure Time and Halloween, sure, get it. But you’ve got to be willing to pay for it, and this title loses a point for having a steep price attached.
Rating: Three peppermints out of five.
Archie Halloween Spectacular
Writers: Alex Simmons, Paul Kupperberg, Dexter Taylor
Artists: Pat & Tim Kennedy, Taylor
Inks: Jim Amash, Rudy Lapick
Letters: Jack Morelli, Bill Yoshida
Colors: Digikoke Studios, Barry Grossman
See? $2.99 is much more appealing, and it’s standard, classic, teenage hi-jinks Archie and not Afterlife or any of the murder-drama of Riverdale. I was slightly concerned that this was just going to be reprints of previous Halloween Comicfest Archie material (the cover is taken from the 2014 issue), but no–if it’s a reprint, it’s stuff I haven’t seen before. Not that it matters with Archie–the classic version’s antics are canned and predictable, but still comforting in their regularity.
The one disappointment is that the first and second stories share an unfortunate coincidence of having the exact same formula, with the kids finding themselves in apparent supernatural danger, only to have the cause be something far less evil (and then the same final sight gag at the end). Surely Archie isn’t that formulaic, but still, it might not be the best choice to have these stories back-to-back. The third story at least mixes things up with a “Li’l Archie” flashback, where the cause of the hijinks is a little more appropriate.
The Archie book is a little more effective as an impulse buy for the younger reader who wants a basic Halloween story. While it’s not as uniquely weird as the Adventure Time special, it’s at least cromulent and, again, the cost is much more attractive.
Rating: Three Archies out of five.