JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER: GHOSTS #3, available from BOOM! Studios on July 1st, is a spooky tale about a young boy, still grieving the death of his mother, who encounters a dark spirit in the woods. Michael Walsh takes on the admirable task of writing, drawing, and coloring this simple and slightly gruesome, ghost story that follows an old Irish legend.
Despite Jim Henson’s name on this series, the story and art might be a little too intense for small children. Walsh’s cover does a great job of letting you know the story is spooky and macabre, and it sets up the tone of the internal pages perfectly. As an adult and lover of all things horror, this is right up my alley. That said, parents should review the issue first before handing it off to their youngsters.
Walsh’s story is a 100% pure, classic, campfire ghost story. A young boy, still grieving his mother’s death, hears the Banshee’s call and assumes it portends the death of another relative. In traditional Irish folklore, the Banshee portends a relative’s death, but it also grants a wish if you’re brave enough to catch it. As with all great ghost stories, the young boy finds the courage to get his wish but with horrifying consequences.
Walsh’s story is simple and effective, told almost exclusively from the boy’s point of view. There’s not a lot of complexity to the plot, and the dialog is sparse. Walsh wisely uses words only when necessary, and lets the art tell the story.
Walsh’s art is well-suited for the story he tells. Every panel is saturated in moonlit blues, and the heavy use of shadow practically weighs down every page with sorrow and dread. The Banshee’s design is, also, suitably off-putting to emphasize how much courage the boy needs to “catch” it. Only a boy with true grit and determination would have the nerve to approach such a figure in the woods.
The slightly surprising part of the art is the mild shocks of gore for the Banshee and her “replacement” – eyes are bleeding, organs are hanging out, limbs are missing. It’s not a gratuitous amount of gore, but it’s enough to warrant consideration before giving this book to a young child. Occasional points of gore aside, the art is all atmosphere and very well done.
Walsh uses a very narrow range of blues to set the tone of loneliness and dread lit by moonlight. It generally works, but it could use a little more contrast during the daylight hours to ratchet up the tension when nightfall comes. Outside the range of blues, there’s an occasional pop of red when blood is present to draw your attention. In short, great job by Walsh effectively using blues for shades and hues to push mood, but it tended to drift towards drab due to lack of contrast.
Jim Campbell’s lettering hits the bullseye for its depiction of melodious speech. The Father sings a lullaby, the Banshee sings a different kind of lullaby and wails in the still of night, and the Banshee’s “replacement” sings the same ominous tune. It’s a lot of singing that needed to be lettered carefully to give both the impression of otherworldly voices and melodic speech at the same time. Since there’s not a lot of captions or narration, the brief bits of dialog and singing keeps the stories pace flowing at a brisk pace that still feels ethereal.
JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER: GHOSTS #3, available from BOOM! Studios on July 1st, is a tight mix of campfire ghost stories and Irish folklore. The writing is gloomy in all the right ways, the art is creepy, and the monkey’s paw twist lands a punch. I highly recommend this book.