Review: Spooky Strange Tales Vol.1: Monster Inn
Writing, Art, Colours and Lettering: Carine-M & Elian Black ‘Mor
Publisher: IDW Publishing
With Halloween just around the corner, there couldn’t be a better time to release this monster, albeit the cuddly kind, themed mystery adventure. Spooky Tales is the brainchild of two of the best known creators of fun, gothic tinged, fairytale romps and this book is no exception to the already outrageous back-catalogue. It centers around a little girl named Spooky, the daughter of a king and queen, and thus the possessor of a fairy god mother, who uses her special gifts to solve mysteries and get up to some general naughtiness along the way (she blames her boredom for that bit). This is a paradoxically gently raucous book and lies well outside of what might be expected as ‘normal’ for a graphic novel.
The story is delivered in the guise of a journal which allows for a more varied approach to the narrative. The resulting text is delivered in a variety of forms, such as floating spells, angry messages from the book itself in scratched, black boxes and entries keeping us up to date with developments. This is a bold move as traditionalists will, of course, find the unstructured approach challenging, however, the tale is rewarding in a number of unexpected ways. Firstly, although we do feel like we’re being bombarded with information, this heightens the experience. Secondly, each page becomes totally immersive and we soon find ourselves used to the setting and parameters of the fairy-tale world of the book. Imagine if Batman kept a secret diary, all hand written and packed with doodles and mind-dumps – that could be a fan’s dream. Well, here it’s all done for us to pick through at our leisure. And this brings me to one criticism; I did find it hard to sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting. The style became a little overwhelming for me so I had to take a break now and again. Saying that, I’m sure younger readers used to the exploits of the Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid books will probably appreciate it more.
Artwise, the book’s a real splat of doodles, sketches, and beautifully detailed, if only occasional, whole page drawings. The doodles feed us snippets of info here and there, with the main narrative is propelled by the multitude of rough sketches that outline Spooky’s visit to London to visit her three-little-pig uncles and their monster laden inn of the title. Amongst the illustrations are some visual games that readers are invited to play. This does feel a little young but skip the visuals and stick to the text if prefered. The colouring is mostly dark penciling on light shaded backgrounds. Expect contrasts to range from purple on white, to dark blues on light blues. The full page spreads, however, burst with bold colours which highlight the many details within, and these wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of any self-respecting fan of youth gothic. Added to this is the occasional reference, in their own text boxes, to the Grimm Fairy Tales which kind of helps make sense of all the appearances of Red Riding Hood amongst others – this is a modern day trope combining the experiences of the creators as readers, as well as their expertise as a pair of modern artists. The result is a truly original book that prods and teases at our sensibilities. Pick it up as an adult, put it down as a kid.
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Review written by Arun Sharma.
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