Stranger Things is coming to Dark Horse for a four-issue mini-series that explains what happened to Will during his time in The Upside Down.
The series is written by Jody Houser, with pencils by Stefano Martino, inks by Keith Champagne, colors by Lauren Affe, letters by Nate Piekos, and a cover by Tomm Coker. It is a tough task to ask Houser or any writer to adapt a TV series, especially Stranger Things. The voices of the characters are already in your head, the look, the feel, the texture of the show are well established. Houser does three things exceptionally well to set herself up for a successful series.
The plot of the story is perfect, as it coincides with the first season of Stranger Things. Will is trapped in the Upside Down, and the story is told from his perspective. The story is familiar to the reader, yet is different enough where you don’t feel like it’s rehashing old material. Plus, even after season two of the show, the Upside Down is still vague and holds mystery and intrigue.
Since the narration is from an omniscient third-person POV, the characters feel like the kids from the show. There is not a change in voice from show to comic book. The narration also pulls the reader to a unique perspective of an observer. This point of view will lead to me yelling at the book in a future issue, “RUN WILL! RUN WILL!”
Dungeons & Dragons is the final element that Houser uses to elevate the book to an enjoyable read. The comic book medium provides a unique way to tell a story, which you can’t replicate on television. The cutaways to the animated D&D game offer an excellent opportunity to establish rules, character relationships, and explain the severity of the situation. All while giving the book the Goonies feel that the Netflix series has.
Martino’s art is also put in a tough spot when adapting the series. Photorealism is too stiff, and if you go too cartoonish you lose the characters from the show and they become something else. Martino does find a balance, and by the end of the first issue, you will see no difference between the show and the comic book because the story takes over.
Critiquing the color work on the book is more of a point of taste, but I would like to see Affe push the envelope more with the colors. The Upside Down is a dark, wet, scary place, and I did not get that from the colors. The muted colors work well when there are tiny hints of vibrant, bold colors. Also, it would have helped to have a greater contrast between the colors of the real world and the Upside Down.
The final page of issue one is where the art team pulls it all together. Champagne’s inks really stand out along with Piekos’ letters; the page is so well done it gave me chills.
Overall, Houser and her creative team put together a fast-paced issue that gets you excited for the series. Stranger Things #1 hits your local comic book store on September 26.
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