Review by Frank Plowright
Skye believes she’s going to spend the summer with a stepmother she dislikes, but at least that’s some time with her father. They have different ideas, and Skye is dispatched to summer camp, the grottiest, most run down summer camp available, Camp Midnight. Here health and safety is a secondary concern, as there’s been some mistake and all her fellow campers are the people who come out at Halloween, ghosts, werewolves, witches and the like.
It takes one hell of a long time to reach that revelation, almost a hundred pages, which have been filled with the grumpy Skye’s sassy remarks, and bonding on the camp bus with the shy Mia. Steven T. Seagle’s storytelling is leisurely, extremely leisurely, so leisurely that not even all the lively cartooning of Jason Adam Katzenstein can disguise the padding. It takes an age for anything to happen, and Skye’s smart mouth may be funny, but it’s constantly compensating for a lack of plot. Part of that may be the way Katzenstein has broken the story down. His prestigious day job is a writer and illustrator for The New Yorker, and his facility with a single image is obvious, but he’s on shakier ground with panel to panel continuity. His expressive sketchiness looks fine, but there’s little variation to a policy of face-on viewpoints, and even a succession of lurid colour choices eventually fails to distract from the repetition.
It’s only in the final quarter that Camp Midnight moves beyond the slapstick and into some emotional content. Seagle reveals why Mia is so withdrawn, but not before providing the best surprise in the book. However, everything else about the story is so obvious. The youngest child reading will surely guess Mia’s secret, although they’ll probably not pick up on the allegorical aspects, Seagle’s message being that youngsters shouldn’t be judgemental. It’s all very admirable, and the brightness and Skye’s transforming character may pull children through to the end, but for anyone else it’s a slog. Perhaps the greater shame is that it removes the title for use, as under a different meaning there’s great potential for something titled Camp Midnight.