Current Reviews


DCU: Halloween Special

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008
By: Troy Stith

DC Comics
Plot: Nine different Halloween mysteries taking place throughout the DC Universe. The ghosts of Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man) and his wife Sue guide you along the way.

Comments: The realism captured on the children’s faces as they run for their lives from monsters and superheroes alike on Gene Ha’s cover is great. It prepared me to “Embrace the Terror” as the covered informed me to do, but how much terror could a DC comic have?

The introduction page is written by Dan Didio who introduces the hosts of the book the Elongated Man and his wife Sue. These two, as you probably already know, are dead and walk between the realms. If not, don’t worry they tell you. Since Didio is one of the editors on the book I figured his part would be flawless, which explains why I was surprised to see a typo in one of the characters dialogue (I won’t say which one, I’ll see if you spot it.) OK, enough on the intro and onto the stories within, there’s a lot to cover.

First up, a Clark Kent story in the offices of the Daily Planet where a Halloween party is taking place. Clark is hammering away while everyone else is partying it up around him. He is trying to meet the deadline to a project and stays after everyone leaves although not before Jimmy Olsen and Perry White remind him of the Planet’s ghost reporter, leaving Clark doubting his beliefs while he works into the night. Mike Johnson writes this ghost tale and he succeeds in showing that kryptonite isn’t the only thing that scares Superman. It was a refreshing take on a Superman story, focusing more on Clark and human emotions rather than a typical Superman tale.

The artist of the story, Matthew Clark, has a classic take on Clark and the gang that is nice and fits the story well. Although you only catch a glimpse of Superman at the end, the art carries on with the same feel throughout the book, not overly bulking up Superman, but instead making him that kid friendly hero everyone loves. Johnson and Clark do a nice job with their opening for the book.

As soon as I finished the first story I was once again met with Ralph and Sue introducing “Fear of the Dark,” a Kyle Rayner story by Eddie Berganza and Trevor Hairsine. Berganza bounces the story back and forth from Rayner’s childhood to current events as Jack T. Chance tries to break him. The flashbacks that Jack T. Chance induces in Rayner give a flash into his past while giving him the strength to survive. Berganza does a nice job using realistic dialogue between the two characters to make what you are seeing that much more effective.

I have to be honest, though, when I saw the first page of this story I was fearful of Trevor Hairsine’s artistic ability. It appeared rushed and not up to par, but when I flipped to his splash on the next page my fears left me. From there out, I had no doubts about his abilities. His all-devouring sharked-toothed Hal Jordan was especially enjoyable. The rough art at the beginning of the story was my only complaint about it and by the end I was happy and ready for Ralph’s next tale.

“The Ballad of Jonathan Crane” turned out to be my favorite tale in the book. Mikey Way takes Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) and plops him into “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” replacing Ichabod Crane as the lowly headmaster. It follows the falsely confident Crane through all the antics of the previous story until the surprise ending.

Mateus’ panel loaded pages don’t feel crowded or neglected in anyway. Each one finds its own detail and element in the story telling process. When Jonathan Crane puts on the Scarecrow’s mask that he steals for the Halloween party, you can feel the energy going through him before his cowardliness shows itself again. Both emotions are equally crafted and executed by Mateus.

On to “The Embrace” by Harvey Richards and Federico Dallocchino, Sebastian Faust is called in for a mysterious Halloween disappearance. What he finds goes a lot deeper into his past than he’s comfortable with.

Although I didn’t know a lot about Sebastian Faust, Richards filled me in quickly while keeping the story moving along. The similarities between Faust and Jeremy (the missing boy) fuel Sebastian to keep searching deeper into the case, leading him right where his father (Felix Faust) wants him, at the Tower of Fate. A battle of inner strength ensues between the two but I’ll let you read to find out what happens. Even though I’m not a big Sebastian Faust fan, Richards made me feel for what he’s been through.

Federico Dallocchino covered all art aspects of this story and it turned out great. His crisp clean lines and color palette depict this tale wonderfully. I may not got out and pick up all things Sebastian Faust but Richards and Dallocchino entertained me either way.

My second favorite tale of the book “One Last Halloween” follows up Richards and Dallocchino’s tale. Before I even started reading the words of this light tale, Darick Robertson’s art grabbed my eye and made me want to flip without reading. I resisted the urge and I’m glad I did. Brian Reed’s words made it all the better.

Taking on the borderline teen statement of “I’m too old for Halloween” we find two twelve-year-old boys, Rich and Chris, at odds with the proclamation. Rich takes the lead as the “looking to up his coolness level” role and ditching the childish tradition, while Chris tries to convince him otherwise. That banter between the two boys and the realness of the “I told you so” Chris once the boys are betrayed by the older “cooler” kids is dead on.

Robertson’s art only gets better as you hear the tales of the sewer Rich relays to Chris, the same tales of doom that got them into the mess. His take on Batman’s greatest villains is dead on and tweaked in his own stylistic ways. Then he brings out one of my favorite Batman villains, Solomon Grundy, plus, the Dark Knight himself bringing the story full circle. Wrapping the story up on an out of character note for Batman made for a perfect tale all around.

Duncan Rouleau tackles the story and art of “Hell Hath No Fury," taking place on a picturesque Halloween night in Hell. Rouleau takes a dark cartoony approach to the art of the story. He uses Etrigan to show that there are a lot of other ways to punish people in Hell without the use of demons and brimstone. Ralph Dibny gives advice on reading this story slow and twice, if need be, at the beginning and I actually had to do that to take in what was being conveyed. So bravo to you, Mr. Rouleau, for making me read your story twice in one sitting.

Halloween without Arkham just wouldn’t be Halloween. Thankfully Brad Desnoyer and Riccardo Burchielli fill that gap with “Scarred and Scared," which finishes up my thid favorite of the book. Harvey Dent leads the story as you get an inside glimpse of Arkham Asylum on Halloween night. A peculiar new inmate is being brought into the madness of Arkham charged with the murder of four kids, something he doesn’t recall doing, but soon shows how it happened. The newcomer catches a glimpse of the full moon and transforms into a werewolf, followed by a battle between Dent and said werewolf. Burchelli’s art is smooth throughout the story, especially in the fight scene. His take on the werewolf was also an eye pleaser. Dent’s lucky coin ends up saving him by the end of the tale and you really get a taste of life in Arkham on Halloween, where the monsters might be crazy but the established residents are crazier.

Making my way to what I thought was the last tale I realized I was reading a mystery with the hosts of the book as the detectives. “The Elongated Halloween” by Mark Verheidan and Dennis Calero starts and transitions into the story “Role Model” and then finishes out the book. I’ll cover this story first and then “Role Model.”

Feeling “the call” from a corpse in a storm drain, Ralph and Sue follow the trail to find out the truth behind the murdered woman. Starting at the victim’s house and tracking down Gloria Wheldon’s past, they find out she was actually well off and had two needy children. Verheidan takes advantage of Ralph and Sue’s newfound possession abilities as they take their stand in stopping the brother, Nathan, from making a huge mistake. Calero’s splash page of Amanda Wheldon’s “jury” is fantastic, making it the eye-catching moment of the story.

Lastly we have “Role Model” by Eric Wallace and Tony Shasteen (who also did the introduction page), which picks up on a reminiscent Mari Jiwe McCabe (Vixen) watching her childhood idol Honey Williams onscreen. It quickly turns into a monsterfest when the monsters start walking out of the screen and into the theater. Mari quickly snaps into action and starts to clean up the mess, even getting help from her role model along the way. Wallace sets out to answer the question, “Can one woman make a difference?” and ends the story by providing the answer.

Tony Shasteen’s art for the piece was good but it didn’t stand out or above any of the other art in the book. I’m not saying his art is poor, but it didn’t grab me, kind of the same feel throughout the story as a whole.

Whew! Sorry about the length of this review but I wanted to touch on each story. I can’t say that I was disappointed in this book but I would have liked to have seen some different characters instead of those contained within. The answer to my question from the beginning (remember that?) is, “Not much." But if you’re in the mood for some super-hero laced Halloween stories or a diehard DC fan, than I suggest picking up this book. Otherwise, wait to see what DC does next year instead of investing the $5.99.

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