Review by Ian Keogh
The rural community of Woodland can be a dangerous place for the unwary or the unprotected, a town where it’s always October and where zombie alligators prowl through the cornfields. Fortunately Woodland has protectors. At their most basic there’s a devil, a ghost, a skeleton and a witch, or at least that’s how they’re costumed.
Decompressed storytelling is so common among 21st century graphic novels that it’s really pleasing to begin with an introductory sequence where the cast appear and do what they have to without it taking five chapters. Anyone who’s read the informative pin-up page is already up to speed anyway.
While the idea of goblins may tie into the supernatural aspects already established, there’s a nice twist to their presence, and it’s characteristic of the approach Martin Powell takes throughout. On the surface The Halloween Legion is simple story, but a lot of effort has gone into making it seem that way. As an example, the goblins induce greater fear as an unknowable silent army than they would spouting threatening dialogue.
Diana Leto is also credited, although somewhat vaguely. There’s no doubt about her co-creating the series, but a credit for “design direction” is less opaque. The artist is Thomas Boatwright, and as he draws the cast they have a similar angular and skewed look to the most familiar version of halloween staples in popular media, which remain the films of Tim Burton. As with Powell’s writing, the cartooning looks simple, but works magic, and the colouring has a lot to do with that. The backgrounds are gloomy browns and greens, over which the primary colours of some costumes really stand out.
The cast are captivating, again due to the thought put in. The most powerful of the bunch is the ghost, who’s a primary school boy, not entirely sure of what he can do, and it’s the high school age Molly who’s the reader identification figure within this halloween family. She has the uncertainty of the teenager, but an underlying certainty of what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s hinted that their cat is the most powerful of them all, but that would be a tale for another day.
A brief autobiographical piece closes the book, as Powell relates the childhood incident that eventually resulted in the creation of the Halloween Legion. The way Leto depicts children is charming, but the storytelling is weak on this inexplicable step into the unknown.
That no further volumes saw print indicates poor sales, which is a shame for a well-conceived and engaging young adult story. This stands alone, though, and is worth reading as such. Those captivated might also want to try the prose novel from Wild Cat Books, featuring a different story.