Don’t ask a lot of questions.
In modern popular culture, if you want to start reading a series or dive into a TV show or film franchise, you start with the very beginning. In fact, half the appeal of a solid binge is to go through everything in precise order, so that every narrative question leads nicely and neatly into the next set of questions.
But do you remember flipping the TV one evening to a random episode of an anime series or watching the back half of an action movie you don’t know the name of? Do you remember that feeling of diving into the middle of events, going with the flow and trusting, hoping, that the longer you went with it, the more it would make sense? Maybe you can’t explain what the hell is happening with Doctor Who from start to finish because you didn’t start with classic series 1. But half way into “The Vampires of Venice” and you’ve got the gist of it.
The best way to experience Halloween Boy is to allow yourself to remember what it was like when you were 10 years old, watching reruns of adventure cartoons, reading pulp paperbacks, mashing toys together, and drawing out your own superhero worlds. The best way to read Halloween Boy is to trust the words on the page, and let yourself go back to a joy that need not be questioned. Dive into the middle of the story, and just see where things go without expectation of answers.
Writer and illustrator, Dave Baker, introduces us to The Demon Who Lives, the Patron Saint of the Impossible, the Archeologist-for-Hire, Ghost Hunter, and Super Scientist Explorer, Halloween Boy! His past is shrouded in mystery, but his quest to help all those in need is forever clear. He inhabits a world of strange, horror movie inspired monsters and robots, he traverses dangerous caves, and finds magical artifacts. In essence, Halloween Boy is Indiana Jones by way of Mike Mignola.
The influences on this series are clear, and go a long way in helping to ground how one should engage with this story. There are of course modern pulp heroes, but Halloween Boy goes further back to the likes of Doc Savage and The Phantom. We learn very little about who Halloween Boy is, and are instead treated to concepts, terminology, and locations without much explanation. However, the more you can allow yourself to just go with it, the more exciting and engaging each idea becomes. Seeing Halloween Boy’s base, in particular, was my favorite moment of the issue.
Baker’s art often goes for the same explosive energy his writing evokes. Every panel is packed to the brim with details, objects, and people. The density of the art helps to slow the reading experience down and further sells the premise. Every page made me stop to break down all the nuances and ticks of the world around me. Sometimes you look down and see a Frankenstein looking robot, and you’re compelled to stare, and just go with it. That was ultimately the greatest joy of reading this book. I was reminded of being a kid, opening up a superhero comic and not understanding what was happening, but dissecting every panel, every detail, every strange article of clothing and every magical object. The experience central to Halloween Boy is filling in the gaps between what you’re told about this world, and all the questions that limited exposition creates.
In contrast to Baker’s other work like Everyone is Tulip and Fuck Off Squad, there isn’t a hefty supporting cast with understood social dynamics to bounce between. We aren’t so much in the minds and hearts of an individual as much as we’re hovering just above this world, being shown dynamic images and interesting concepts. More than his other works, Halloween Boy feels like it always has its eye on the reader, pushing and pulling us with how quickly we cycle through a scene or how detailed we get about how Halloween Boy got his name. That ever present feeling of being a reader, of staring at pages until you see everything there is to see, is on its own a refreshing way to read an original comic. But add to that a spooky main character and monsters to get you in the mood for Autumn, and you’re left with a story that feels like it could become a comfort food classic.
Review: Halloween Boy #1
Halloween Boy #1
Writer/Artist: Dave Baker
Layout/Logo: Mike Lopez
Halloween Boy is the greatest archaeologist-for-hire, super-scientists, and warlock that the globe has ever seen. His daily existence is the impossible, his average solution is the unimaginable. However, when a routine artifact rescue mission goes wrong, the man known as The Demon Who Lives, will be forced to question everything he knows about himself in a thrilling science-adventure serial titled The Last of the Halloween Boys Part 1.