Tag Archives: YA

Review: Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp #1

GOOSEBUMPS: SECRETS OF THE SWAMP #1

It’s easy to admire how Goosebumps approaches YA horror, especially in pursuing dark stories without the intention of dialing down the evil behind them. This is the case with the new mini-series set within its universe, Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp, where three girls find themselves in the middle of a battle between werewolves and wolf-hunters. With this setup, writer Marieke Nijkamp and artist Yasmín Flores Montañez kick-off a story that updates the classic Goosebumps formula with a strong and diverse cast along with familiar monsters offering new scares.

The story follows Blake, an expert gamer looking to pass the summer beating high scores online. Her aunt, whom she is staying with, tries to get her back into the real world with hints and clues as to the myths and legends of the town of Fever Swamp. Horror starts to creep in with this revelation as Blake meets Lily and Cara and tales of swamp monsters start circulating between them.

Flores Montañez and colorist Rebecca Nalty do wonders with the setting. Fever Swamp looks vibrant and colorful but dangerous as well. There’s something about a swamp setting that screams blood and monsters and the art team does a great job of capturing it in all its terrifying glory. Colors seamlessly transition from lighter into darker variations of themselves and in the process help carry the storytelling as it moves towards all-out horror.

Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp #1
IDW

The characters’ facial expressions make them feel instantly relatable given they’re so storied and alive. By the end of this first issue, I felt as if I had been reading these characters for a long time. It speaks volumes to Flores Montañez’s ability to bring life into the comics page and the characters that inhabit them.

Nijkamp’s script is expertly paced and allows the story to unravel without heavy exposition dumps. Nothing is explicitly and definitively explained, allowing for a grander sense of the unknown to settle in. As the monsters of the swamp start coming out of the dark, we get the sense that they’re carrying stories with them that don’t conform to the classic trope of ‘good vs. evil’.

Secrets of the Swamp remarkably offers a lot of story in each panel. Details that range from the text on a character’s shirt to the way they move and even how their hair is styled all play into the uniqueness of each character’s identity. This comic feels well lived in. It makes sure readers come back to its world to further uncover its mysteries.

Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp #1 is a strong start to a YA horror story that can set a good example as to how to get the most out of the genre. The creative team for this comic is in perfect synchronization and it shows. Stay with this comic. There’s a lot of horror to be had with the promise of more to come.

Story: Marieke Nijkamp Art: Yasmín Flores Montañez Colors: Rebecca Nalty
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy, read, and then visit a swamp (just not alone)
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IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Star Wars descends into the unknown for new YA horror anthology DARK LEGENDS, but it’s not without precedent

Horror and Star Wars isn’t something one often hears uttered in the same sentence, although the pairing of the two isn’t entirely novel for the franchise. Disney Lucasfilm Press has announced its intentions to look beyond the dark side for a new YA horror anthology titled Star Wars: Dark Legends. The book is set for a July 28 release and will feature six terrifying tales written by George Mann with illustrations by Grant Griffin.

In an interview given to SYFY WIRE, Mann states that the six tales will read like campfire/bedtime cautionary tales complete with hauntings, transformations, and eerie Sith lords. The book’s scope covers the myths and legends of the Star Wars universe with details and ideas taken from the new Galaxy’s Edge attractions at Disneyland and Disney World.

Star Wars: Dark Legends.
Star Wars: Dark Legends, Disney Lucasfilm

It’s refreshing to see some much needed experimentation and playfulness afforded to the Star Wars brand. It’s only logical to the consider the possibility of horror lurking within such a rich expanded universe, especially when we’ve already had horror books set in it way before Disney acquired the franchise.

In the late 1990’s, publisher Bantam Spectra released twelve Star Wars horror books for young readers as part of a series called “Galaxy of Fear.” The books were written by John Whitman and they followed in the tradition of R.L. Stein’s iconic Goosebumps stories. These were short and fast reads set after the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Cameos from Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Thrawn, and Boba Fett were not uncommon, but the stories had their own characters embarking on these dark adventures. Book 3, for instance, called “Planet Plague,” follows Tash, Zak, and Uncle Hoole as they visit the planet Gobindi to explore its ancient ruins. Tash is suddenly afflicted by a big and strange bump that’s threatening to come out of her arm. And then the bump grows bigger and bigger.

Galaxy of Fear series

Book 6, titled “Ghost of the Jedi,” finds the trio on the planet Nespis 8. A haunted library is said to be found on the planet, one haunted by the ghost of a Jedi. Whether it’s as simple as that is a question the book answers in the only way a Star Wars horror book can.

The most impressive thing these books achieve lies in how organically they weave horror and Star Wars together. No book feels like it’s being force-fed elements of the supernatural or of gothic-style hauntings for the sake of a gimmick. They treat the license’s vast universe as fertile ground for scary things that feel like they belong there.

The next horror book to come out of the expanded universe came in 2009 and was called Star Wars: Death Troopers. Written by Joe Schreiber, the book deals in zombies and is set in a broken-down prison barge containing two very important prisoners that are synonymous with the franchise. It takes place before the events of A New Hope and it manages to propose a kind of framework for how horror can be integrated into the grander narrative. The book was well-received and paved the way for a prequel novel, by the same author, called Red Harvest (2010). The two books later came to be known as the “Virus Duology.”

Book 1 of the Virus Duology

The prequel explains the origin of the virus that turns the dead into the undead and looks at a Jedi that is particularly skilled with plant life. The book also features a Sith Master called Darth Scabrous that wants to harness the power of a special flower that can act as an ingredient for the deadly virus.

While Star Wars is no stranger to horror, its time with it has been relatively limited. The new “Dark Legends” anthology could be the catalyst that brings about a more robust offering of horror stories set in that galaxy far, far away. If the same pattern emerges, maybe we can hope for a new fully-fledged horror novel ready to bring fear into the hearts of readers and Jedi alike.