Dark Horse Comics
(W) Jody Houser (A) Stefano Martino (I) Keith Champagne (C) Lauren Affe
Perhaps the biggest hit for streaming giant Netflix, Stranger Things is a near perfect blend of 1980s nostalgia, capturing the adventure of The Goonies, the horror of Poltergeist, and character work of John Hughes movies. This tie-in comic from Dark Horse possesses none of those things. Aside from some window dressing, Stranger Things #1 possesses none of the elements that has made the streaming show a pop-culture phenomenon.
This comic is not a complete failure. As a stand-alone horror title, there are moments when Jody Houser’s are genuinely scary, thanks in part to the art by Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, and Lauren Affe. Unfortunately, it does very little to bring something new to the table. Following Will as he is trapped in the “Upside Down” as seen in Season One of the show, readers are presented with what he was forced to deal with while his friends and family were looking for him. To the surprise of no one, Will spends the entirety of the issue running from what became to be known as the Demogorgon. But for anyone that has seen either season of the show, there is little tension to be found.
The artwork from Martino, Champagne, and Affe varies greatly in quality throughout the issue. While in some instances it looks stunning, there are others where the page appears incomplete. For example, there are times when only half of a character’s face is drawn. It’s unclear if it is meant to represent shadow falling over part of their face, or if they’re partially in a fog, or even if their transitioning between dimensions. It’s maddeningly unclear. With that said, the creative team does a great job of recreating the eerie, atmospheric look the the Upside Down. It is actually the highlight of the issue, especially thanks to the cold shades of blue Affe uses to create a senses of uneasiness.
Stranger Things #1 tries to be a book for both die-hard fans of the hit show and brand-new readers and succeeds in alienating both audiences. Part of why the show is so popular is that, despite having moments that don’t quite work, it is generally very tightly plotted. Because of that, there’s very little wiggle room for the creative team to work with the main cast. As a result, nothing new is brought to satiate the hunger of fans that must wait until Summer 2019 for Season Three. Those that haven’t seen the show may pick this up and discover an okay horror title that does little to make them want to come back for the next issue.