As a child, I was both terrified and fascinated by the things that go “bump” in the night, and nothing was bumpier than the spine-tingling work of R.L. Stine and his infamous children’s horror books, Goosebumps. From page to television adaptation, Goosebumps haunted the nightmares of millions of kids, and in my particular wussy case, adults, across the globe. So when IDW announced a Goosebumps line with original stories coming to use in the world of comic storytelling, it was with pure delight I saw one hit my review box. And with MONSTERS AT MIDNIGHT, the creators did not disappoint. The spooky team-up of masterminds Jeremy Lambert and Chris Fenoglio has done the childish nostalgia scene right.
Ginny and Mia have decided very quickly that hanging out with their elderly grandmother in her boring house is not how they want to spend their summer vacation. As with most of the Goosebumps children, there’s some rebellious sneaking out of the house and then some serious regret about that decision in the immediate future. When the sisters enter Cursed Editions, a sinister looking bookshop, they’re drawn towards a doorway that would make any sane person scream and run the other way. But nope, not in Goosebumps!
Instead, Lambert leads the guileless girls into a creepy-ass amusement park with even creepier inhabitants, namely the bane of my Goosebumps experience — Slappy, the irritating dummy that literally gives me nightmares. I don’t like creepy children, creepy dolls or creepy toys in horror. I just… I can’t. So despite my lack of enthusiasm to see my old nemesis, I do admit that Lambert chose one of the perfect monsters to bring back the series. From here on out, it’s nothing but running for their lives and trying to hide from the creatures that wander their new home. Trapped with no way out, Mia and Ginny have to admit that there’s no hope for their return to the safety of boring summers and dull grandmas. That is until Irk, one of the more compassionate monsters, tells the girls there’s another doorway to their world, one they can exit. The catch? They’ll have to cross the Scream Park to reach it, and evade Slappy and the other monsters on their way out.
It’s always interesting for me to see how books I love are adapted into the graphic world, and sometimes they miss their mark. But with Monsters at Midnight being an original story, Lambert and Fenoglio were able to pull off the perfect combination of dialogue and illustration to put my head into that place of childhood fear, and get me invested in the story. The writing itself is simple but engaging – feeding the audience, especially keeping in mind this is marketed towards children, a steady stream of fear and determination, an intriguing and necessary combination when it comes down to a Goosebumps story. There’s less of the “OMGosh, we’re all going to die!” feel that I got from the original R.L. Stine chapter books, but a new writer will leave some things out. And to be honest, I fully believe that as Goosebumps the comics go on, Lambert is going to deliver that in a new way.
Fenoglio nailed the art. There’s not a lot of detail in the work, but there’s just enough line work that it gives the illusion of heavily intricate art while still maintaining a cartoonish appearance that really works for the overall feel of the book. The use of ‘black space’ around the panels lends to the darkness of the book, and the colorist Brittany Peer does a beautiful job highlighting Fenoglio’s work and setting the mood. With a lot of purples, blues and greens, the colors cast a spookier aura over the comic. Avoiding copious amounts of reds and blacks make it a little more child friendly, and whether that was intentional or not, it was a good choice in my opinion.
Overall, Goosebumps MONSTERS AT MIDNIGHT was a fun throwback read that’ll be a perfect comic for children, and for adults on a nostalgia kick or in search of a light read. The writing was enjoyable and read smoothly, and the illustration team presented a beautiful comic to look at. Definitely recommended, and I’ll be adding it to my weekly list as well.
My kids like Goosebumps. Don’t judge me….
(W) Jeremy Lambert (A) Chris Fenoglio (CA) Derek Charm