Firstly, the name R.L. Stine needs no real introduction. His is a name that’s synonymous with the young adult horror genre that just about every Gen X and Millennial kid read, and his works spanned from more kid-friendly fare (e.g., Goosebumps and The Ghosts of Fear Street) to his scarier and gorier Fear Street series. His works have been adapted into TV shows and movies. The man is a legend. Which is why it was hard to pass up the chance to check out his latest foray into the macabre, a new title published by BOOM! Studios, aptly titled Stuff of Nightmares.
The first tale in the series is “The Monster Makers,” a take on the classic Frankenstein story. In the first issue, we meet the brothers, Isaac and Jordan, and their associate who are trying to create a living creature using bits and pieces harvested and scavenged from unwitting “donors.” As the saying goes, you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet, and, as you can imagine, not every attempt is going to be successful. Things get decidedly messy when their experiments are discovered by a driven journalist.
R.L Stine frames his story in the mode of Tales from the Crypt, in which a mysterious, shadowy figure introduces the spooky tale with some preamble and then closes the tale with some cryptic hints. Given the kinda pulpy feel of the series, this works well. Stine isn’t doing anything new here – at least not yet – but if this series is a gateway to his oeuvre for new readers, it should grab them by the throat. One of my criticisms of much of Stine’s bibliography is that it is fairly formulaic, but I’m curious to see if he makes some interesting choices in this Frankenstein update.
The art by A.L. Kaplan really sold this book for me. It just captured that pulpy vibe so well, and the characters are well-designed and expressive. The artwork has this teen horror movie feel to it, and the gore and grisly details are enough to be disturbing, but not induce nightmares. The colors by Roman Titov are nothing short of brilliant; the use of a limited palette really helps to establish the “feel” of the series, giving it a retro feel while entirely heightening the aesthetic. Finally, the lettering of Jim Campbell is always a joy to read. Campbell’s work is consistently top-notch, and this is no aberration. I’m particularly fond of the way Campbell letters across several panels, in effect tying those panels together.
Overall, while not groundbreaking in a genre that he helped to popularize to younger readers, this is a solid effort by R.L Stine and Co., and I hope to be pleasantly surprised by future installments.
Creative Team: R.L Stine (writer), A.L. Kaplan (artist), Roman Titov (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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