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Review: ‘Stranger Things Halloween Special’ one-shot

The Dark Horse comic, which was released on Oct. 21, is written by Michael Moreci, with art by Todor Hristov, with colorist Chris O’Halloran and letter Nate Piekos.

“Stranger Things Halloween Special” cover. Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Netflix sensation “Stranger Things” may not get everything right, but there’s two things the series doesn’t miss on: horror and nostalgia for the 1980s. The “Stranger Things Halloween Special” one-shot from Dark Horse Comics, which was released on Oct. 21, provides a heaping dose of both those things.

The one-shot opens on Halloween night, presumably in 1983, with Jonathan Byers, older brother of Will Byers, watching TV and listening to his two-way radio inside, eavesdropping on a conversation happening at his brother’s campfire outside of his makeshift fort. Around the fire at Castle Byers, Will and his friends — Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson and Lucas Sinclair — take turns telling scary stories and Will’s up to share a yarn. Clothed in Star Wars costumes and munching on candy, the gang is sucked into the moment, much like a scene of them playing through a Dungeons & Dragons campaign during the show’s first season.

With a script by Michael Moreci, who penned “Hoax Hunters” at Image Comics, and art by Todor Hristov of Bulgaria, the linework is rendered so that the comic visually plays into established horror tropes. Hristov’s character depictions are unique compared to what’s seen in other “Stranger Things” comics and it’s always clear who each character is. With splendid color work by Chris O’Halloran, a rich layer of texture is embedded, as he plays with light and shade while ensuring there’s a discernible color palette for both the 1980s and 1960s. Nate Piekos and Francesco Francavilla assist in the storytelling with letters and cover art, respectively.

As Will’s story unfolds, he shares the untold Halloween story of the Child-Eater of Hawkins, Indiana. The premise of the monster is neat, and even scarier than a Demogorgon, and Will’s tale allows for a 1960s version of Hawkins to be crafted into existence. With a splash of humor and an extra helping of gore, the one-shot provides plenty of tricks and treats for “Stranger Things” fans who are waiting for a new season of the series to start streaming.

Interior artwork from the issue. Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

It’s unclear when exactly the special takes place, though it’s easy to speculate it occurs in 1983 — just days before the first season begins, given Eleven is nowhere to be found and the second season covers the events of Halloween in 1984. The lack of a concrete timeline is a non-issue and anyone who has a basic familiarity of “Stranger Things,” or has at least watched some the first season, can likely take enjoyment in reading the one-shot. The issue contains no spoilers with regard to the Netflix series, or previous comic book entries from Dark Horse, which has produced all “Stranger Things” comics to date.

If nothing else, the “Stranger Things Halloween Special” one-shot is worth picking up just to see the gang hanging out together once more, just before everything goes all Upside Down — literally. The one-shot also has some thick irony, given what’s to happen to Will just days after this comic takes place.

“Stranger Things,” which has three seasons streaming to date with a fourth in development, stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton. Created by the Duffer Brothers, 25 episodes of “Stranger Things” are available for viewing. The fourth season was expected to drop late this year, but production delays occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Halloween one-shot is available in comic shops and digitally.



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