"Halloween Legion" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Martin Powell
Illustrated by Thomas Boatwright and Diana Leto
2013, 82 Pages
Graphic Novel published on September 11th, 2013
It's getting to be that time of year again. The time in which it's socially acceptable to wear a strange costume and accept candy from strangers. I also don't get weird looks when I buy a three-pound bag of candy corn because everyone thinks it's for trick-or-treaters. In reality, I'm going to gorge myself on maybe 20 pieces before forgetting how awful they taste and want to throw up. But I digress. Creators Martin Powell and Diana Leto seem to love this season as well, judging from their new graphic novel The Halloween Legion. The book centers on a strange group of heroes of the same name, with spooky powers that fit in perfectly with the month of October. There's the Skeleton, the Witch, the Devil, the Ghost, and Autumn the Black Cat. They defend the small town of Woodland from all manner of creepy crawlies.
I was in love with this concept from page one. The Halloween Legion could have easily been a hokey team with lame powers like candy apple missiles or jack-o-lantern bombs. Instead, Powell and Leto have created a group of characters with intricate abilities and intriguing back stories. I instantly want to know more about Grimalkin the Witch and where she came from or how Freddy the Ghost died or what gives the Skeleton the ability to come back from the grave.
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Speaking of Freddy, he's the most interesting character on the team. He's essentially Casper, but instead of glancing over the fact that he's a dead child, Powell and Leto embrace it. It's something that identifies Freddy. Instead of feeling sorry for him, you want to see him succeed. He's still trying to figure out what he is and what his limitations are. The Skeleton hints that if Freddy ever actually does this, he'll be the most powerful of them all. The Ghost starts to dabble in some new abilities by the end of the story and that thought is definitely warranted.
This team, also known as the World's Weirdest Heroes, jumps into action when a horde of alien goblins attack Woodland. These creatures come out of nowhere, but the Halloween Legion is ready to do anything it takes to save the town and put these ugly little things in their place. The group works very well together, enhancing each other's strengths while protecting against their weaknesses. They could give the Avengers or the Justice League a run for their money.
The time period isn't given, but The Halloween Legion feels like a book that should have come out a few decades ago. That's not to say that it's dated. It has the mood of an earlier, simpler time about it. Woodland could be any Podunk town across the US.
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Thomas Boatwright illustrated the main story and was a great choice in bringing these characters to life. The designs are simple but never look like they're not finished or rushed. He nails the essence of every member of the Halloween Legion. The Skeleton is bulky and a little standoffish, while the Devil is nice young girl with a harsh temper lurking just under the surface. The Ghost is innocent and naïve and the Witch is hideously ugly but with a kind heart. All of this can be seen from the team's first appearance on the page. Additionally, the action scenes are top notch and expertly choreographed. Each fight is different, featuring the characters' strange powers in special ways. The final battle has some crazy abilities shown from some of the team members that I wouldn't have thought possible from the beginning of the comic.
There's a backup story included with The Halloween Legion entitled “Once Upon a Halloween.” It's written by Powell and was the inspiration for the main story. This is a fun little tale that Powell claims to be entirely true, in which as a child, he encountered a strange and unexplainable incident one Halloween. It's cute, but I'm not sure how much I believe it. Leto handles the artwork here, but her style is a bit of a letdown after Boatwright's stellar pencils on the title story. She gives the characters a very wide-eyed look in almost every panel, playing up their young age. It looks like an older version of Family Circus.
The Halloween Legion is an incredibly fun comic that introduces some of the coolest new characters I've read in years. I hope to see more from the World's Weirdest Heroes and I sincerely wish that this gets turned into a weekly animated TV show because it's the perfect fit for one.