Stranger Things #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jody Houser
Penciler: Stefano Martino
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Lauren Affe
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Review by Michael Farris, Jr.
Stranger Things #1 starts off with Will Byers on his way back home, when he encounters a terrifying monster all by himself. After he is able to chase the monster off, he wanders around what he thinks is his house and back yard, but something is…off. Without anyone around him to help, his fight to survive the Upside Down is only just beginning.
Anyone who is a fan of the breakthrough Netflix’s Stranger Things knows that the first season of the show spends a lot of time with Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven; we only get to see Will at the very beginning and end of the series. Since the Upside Down is full of man-eating monsters and is a world where grown men fear to tread, how on earth did Will survive while everyone else was trying to find him?
Enter Dark Horse and Jody Houser. This four-part series will explore that gap to show us just how Will was able to make it through. The first issue adds to that tension with an added maxim through flashbacks to the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons sessions: you live as a party or you die alone.
With the focus being on Will and his fight to survive in the Upside Down, you might be wondering, “Well, how is there any dialogue if he’s by himself?” If you think that, shame on you (I totally thought that). Houser does a great job incorporating narrative boxes, thought bubbles, and dialogue through flashbacks to ensure that the art doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting in storytelling duties. And remember two things: if you watched the show, you know Will attempts to make contact to the real world through walkie-talkies and the infamous Christmas light scene (I can’t wait to see how that’s done in the comic), and Tom Hanks was able to make Castaway work.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this comic is the way the story relies on integrating Dungeons and Dragons to Will’s plight. Houser, a D&D aficionado, writes it so that Will uses a child-like D&D lens to help him cope with this adventure. The sessions guide him through his worst nightmare, and he even views real-life self-defense as casting a spell. It’s extremely charming to see the parallels between real life and D&D come into play.
The artwork captures everything you love about the Stranger Things show. In addition to the characters you love, the wash of 80s nostalgia, and the haunting visuals, the artwork has this feel of a colored pencil drawing on stock paper that you happen to glance in the backpack of that kid you know in school who is always doodling but is freakishly good at it. And I loved being able to actually see the Demogorgon drawn out in full-monster-glory.
Verdict: Buy it.
This is a must-read for fans of the Netflix show, and if you haven’t watched the show, maybe this is a gateway for you to get into the Upside Down. Dark Horse, Jody Houser, and co. rolled a nat-20 on this one.
Stranger Things will be at a local comic book store near you on September 26th.