Tuesday 19 September 2023

Halloween Girl - Book Two: Dead Reckoning (2023) - Horror Graphic Novel Review

Halloween Girl - Book One: Promises to Keep
was an interesting graphic novel that reminded me a lot of the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Protagonist Charlotte's battles to rescue her kidnapped son made for an entertaining story, something that the simple, yet effective art styles clearly set out. Halloween Girl - Book Two: Dead Reckoning, rather than escalate the conflict of what has gone before, actually serves as a prequel of sorts, with an insular look into Charlotte and her relationship with her family.

The seventy five page graphic novel is split over two parts, and in a back and forth way they explore Charlotte's past. I thought it was unusual that rather than chart the events leading up to her death, instead the book begins with Charlotte already a ghost, and her possibly initial return to the real world to try and fix old business. Much like the first book, it doesn't explicitly explain how things came to be. There was a comment about Charlotte not going towards the light when she died, but that's the only explanation for why she is now an Earth bound spirit. I liked the back and forth, where via flashbacks to her last night alive, haunting her mother's dreams, and meeting her son Luke without revealing who she actually is, you come to know her pain. It was fun seeing where the 'Halloween Girl' moniker originates from.

Where book one was high stakes and fantastical, this takes a more relatively grounded approach, with a Gothic feeling story that had the protagonist on fine form. Having died as a teenager, and bearing a grudge against her mother, especially now that the woman has raised Luke to believe she is his mum, she shows some immaturity in her dealings with the woman. This is mainly personified in nightmares and visions where she appears before her mother. I loved these sequences as unlike the normal look of Charlotte, here she is in a frightening form, covered with the injuries from the drunk driving incident that killed her, now fresh once again. There was never a sense she wished genuine harm, but it is the darkest that this character has been portrayed as.

I expected the black and white shading to reappear here and this didn't disappoint, with Elenora Garofolo's illustrations being spot on, panels being full of environmental detail, and expressive characters. They matched the bittersweet feel of Richard T. Wilson's tragic story very effectively. He had originally planned to continue on from the events of Book One, but due to the reception of the character of Charlotte decided to make book two an expansion of his 2014 screenplay. Learning that he wrote the original story the year his mum passed, as a way to cope, that pain can be seen. The year my mum passed away I certainly wasn't as productive or creative!

I would have been happy for more of the same, but to have this introspective look into the backstory of Charlotte was a nice surprise, the dark artstyle and the tragic story complimenting each other perfectly. Halloween Girl - Book Two: Dead Reckoning is due for release October 1st, an autographed copy can be pre-ordered on the Mad Shelley Comics website, here.


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