The Halloween Legion: The Great Goblin Invasion is an entertaining all-ages book from Dark Horse and Sequential Pulp Comics that combines humor, horror, and science fiction into a story that relates a positive message for kids with hints of nostalgia for adults, all presented with just the right amount of subtle melancholy. The Halloween Legion, created by Martin Powell and Diana Leto, is comprised of classic Halloween characters – The Skeleton, The Devil, The Witch, and The Ghost, but each is unique, and there is a rich, emotional depth to their characters and their relationships. They may be the “World’s Weirdest Heroes,” but they are also friends, brought together by their powers, their desire to help people, and the fact that they don’t quite fit into regular society.
Molly, The Devil of the Legion, is probably the most normal, in outward appearances at least, and so we are most able to relate to the Legion through her. Powell, who has adapted numerous literary and pulp classics into graphic novels, takes us on a rollicking adventure as The Halloween Legion squares off against alien goblin invaders. The dialogue is full of fun, fifties-centric exclamations like “Wowza!” and the denizens of the small, rural community of Woodland speak with an endearing, southern-hued dialect. The only thing I missed was a bit more back story on The Halloween Legion itself. We find out some details about their past here and there, but mostly their origins are shrouded in mystery, which is how it often goes with magical heroes, and which also leaves much more to be explored by Powell and Leto in future stories. For The Great Goblin Invasion though, it is not the past that matters, but the present, and the lengths that The Halloween Legion must go in order to save the day, and possibly the world. There is an added treat at the end of the book, besides some great pin-ups, in the form of an original short comic written by Powell and illustrated by Leto that served as the initial inspiration for The Halloween Legion.
Powell dedicates the book to the memory of celebrated author Ray Bradbury, and Bradbury’s influences can be seen throughout, both in the story and in the art, and that is a true joy. The art by Thomas Boatwright evokes a sense of classic nostalgia, of wind rustling through the leaves of the trees during fall, and his mixture of detail and loose sketching perfectly captures that place between dreams and reality where Halloween lies in many of our minds. Making this adventure feel larger-than-life is the continual use of splash pages, with a handful of detailed panels super-imposed over the larger picture. This also gives the dark, autumn hues of Halloween and the green, glowing colors of the alien goblin invasion room to breathe, creating a vivid, magical atmosphere where anything is possible.
Wonderfully, Powell does not shy away from the darker elements of his and Leto’s Halloween-themed heroes. There is a touching discussion between a little girl and The Ghost, who used to be a boy in her class. The issue of death is handled very tenderly, as is the issue of being a hero through making sacrifices, and the tale has a poignant ending that will resound with anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t fit in. If desired, the way these issues are dealt with in the story could be talking points for parents to discuss them with their children. But, while there is a consistent emotional resonance that carries throughout the book, The Great Goblin Invasion never loses sight of its fun, pulpy roots, and there is plenty of action, adventure, magic, and UFO abducting that lets us see The Halloween Legion doing what they have banded together to do, and that is protect the citizens of Woodland, and keep the world safe. The Halloween Legion: The Great Goblin Invasion makes us long for the colors and adventures of fall, for the feelings of nostalgia that embody Halloween, and for the spirited magic that empowers The Halloween Legion to selflessly keep watch over those who need their protection.