Monday, October 26, 2009

DC Halloween Special. ooooh spoooooooky!

DC's Halloween Special '09
Written by Various
Art by Various
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts and Amanda McDonald

This is another one of DC's sometimes spooky takes on Halloween. It's billed as containing "13 All-New Tales of Terror," and that's a bit of an understatement. Last year's was okay at best, but this year seems to have a bit more treats than tricks. There is a major assortment of talent going on here and a who's who from Billy Tucci to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. So, let's see what this year's special has in store.

This year, the special is bookended by a Bizarro story by Jake Black (Ender's Game), and while it's difficult to understand the over use of the Bizarro language, I got the gist of the situation. Bizarro wants to make sure that everybody has a happy Halloween and at the end, we see DC editorial as Bizarro World citizens.

In the next story we see Guy Gardner trying to plan a massive Halloween party on Oa and inviting his fellow Corps members as well as his girlfriend, Ice. Though Ice originally tells Guy she has plans with Fire later, she surprises him at the party with an interesting choice for a costume. It's a fluff piece that really didn't need Guy's backstory about his abusive father. "Halloween the Guy Way" is written by Adam Schlagman (Strange Adventures, Supergirl) and the dialogue seems like it was written by a sixteen year old who trolls fanfic forums. For example, Guy telling Kyle that there will be a costume contest and how it'll be like a "Cowboy's cheerleader competition." Kyle's response? "Guy, I already have a woman." As a Kyle fan, those words just don't seem right coming out of his mouth. The art is done by Mark Bagley and I have to give him props for remembering that Kyle is part Mexican and is shown as much. I also loved the Halloween party splash page where you might spot Sorcerer Supreme and wall-crawler wannabes.

Duncan Rouleau (Ben 10, X-Men Unlimited) gives us a Creeper page in which I'm really not sure what is going on. I dig the art style though.

One of the longer stories in the issue is "Seeing is Believing," an Outsiders piece with the distinct art of Kelley Jones and craftily written by Michael Siglain. Filling in for Batman, the Outsiders are sent to disrupt a cult ceremony performed every three years to summon their queen from the dead. Having never read any Outsiders, I really enjoyed this story. The team dynamics are intriguing and they do a great job kicking ass. I may have to seek out some books at my shop. After the Outsiders depart, Deborah Dancer resurrects Andrew Bennett, from I. . . Vampire-- another series I wasn't familiar with. Thanks DC Halloween Special, now I have to go buy more books!

Leave it to Art Baltazar and Franco to write a story that makes me chuckle aloud. While I'm biased, and would have preferred to see this story in Tiny Titan's style (imagine-- a ballroom of grown ups in that style!), Sergio Carrera does a nice job keeping the panels simple enough as not to distract from the heavy dialogue of the first couple pages. Having a charity ball at Wayne Manor, Bruce is upset that Alfred has allowed Dick to go out trick or treating. Killer Moth crashes the party, but makes an ill-fated decision to answer the door for a couple of trick or treaters. Critiquing their costume choices, he gets quite a surprise.

Derek Fridolfs comes out from behind of the inker's table, well sort of, to write Robin (Damian Wayne) in his first solo adventure. Fridolfs is teamed with his partner-in-art, Dustin Nguyen, and of course the art looks dynamite. After being bored, Robin goes after a new Gotham villain, Sugar Tooth, a former dentist who went mad after the Joker killed his two daughters. Fridolfs gets the right feel for Damian and the narration is spot-on. This is probably one of the stronger stories in this collection.
After we see Damian, next is another Robin story. This time, it's Tim Drake aka Red Robin. I think the art would have looked better as a black and white story because I wasn't feeling Michael Atiyeh's colors on Matt Triano's heavy-lined, chunky style. Ariel Thomas really dives deep into Drake's psyche, but it borderlines depressing. I do love the Dia de Muertos setting, though.

We are then treated to a short and sweet Ravager page. Great team up with Amy Wolfram and the art team of Pow Rodrix and Marlo Alquiza. Ravager gives a little a "peek" show to some trick-or-treaters that I don't think they were expecting.

After that, we get the best story in the assortment. Kid Flash (Bart Allen) goes up against Mirror Master that is a sort of a take on the old Bloody Mary myth. Very creepy. It's solid through and through with probably the scariest twist in the whole book. Joe Harris (Creepy) has a good feel for these characters as well as what Halloween is all about. Andrei Bressan and Marcelo Maiolo make a terrifyingly good team that really delivers.

Another one page by Amy Wolfram (though on the page itself, her name is misspelled as "Wolfman"), is a fun quick story that breaks up the book nicely. In "Never Too Old," we see Beast Boy experience that point that has pained us all-- being told he is too old for trick or treating.

Hanging out with her girlfriends and watching a spooky TV special on "The Forest Lady," Wonder Woman feels disturbed (though the ladies tease her that she's scared), and decides to head home. As she exits, she sees Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, and Aquagirl fly off to see if they can find out if the Forest Lady is real. Following them, she's creeped out by the forest and talking to herself. As she hears noises from a cave, she spies the girls. What she doesn't see, nor do they, is what we get to see in the last panel. Quite creepy, indeed. Ulises Arreola's colors are quite a delightful treat to balance the trick in this story.

Billy Tucci writes and provides the art for the next story that has a certain charm to it. What we think is another take on yet another Superman and Flash race, but is not what it really appears. It's a nice fluff story that is my second favorite of the issue. I don't consider myself a Flash fan, but both my favorites in this book are Flash-centric. Interesting.

So, if Lois and Clark were to choose Halloween costumes, what do you think they would choose? According to Joshua Williamson in "My Turn to be Scary," they would be Daphne and Fred of Scooby-Doo fame. Working at the Daily Planet's annual Grim Reaper Haunted Office Tour for kids, they encounter a group of spoil-sport hoodlums and decide to take them on a "private" tour. Using his superpowers to both lead the tour and appear as the grim reaper, Supes enjoys his chance to be scary for once. However, is he the only one enjoying scaring everyone? It appears not. . . . This story is a nice blend of fun and fright, leading into the end of the book itself.

The cost for this one is a bit heftier than other books, but for thirteen stories, and relatively few ads it is well worth it. DC's Halloween Special '09 was truly a treat to enjoy. As we sit here with our pumpkins waiting to be carved and a bowl of candy we keep sneaking our favorites from, reading this book was a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

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