A word of warning before this review begins in earnest. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t like politics or religion being discussed in their comics, it’s probably best you find something else to read and fair play to you. Because this book does not shy away from such topics and neither will this review. Thank you.
Halloween Man: American Nightmare was a pleasantly surprising read about unpleasant subjects and the sort of story you’d never see establishment comics tackling today. Bled from the same vein as Claremont’s God Loves, Man Kills and Steve Englehart’s Captain America, this is a story about religion, politics and the great pumpkin.. shirt wearing, half-zombie superhero being dragged into a battle with a Satan-worshiping gubernatorial candidate.
Reports of a cult that is killing the downtrodden and being ignored by the police gets Solomon Hitch (the ever-lovin’ Halloween Man), Dr. Lucy Chaplin (world’s smartest woman, super-scientist, plus-size model and Solomon’s lady love) and Ron Rollins (bastard son of Pan, were-goat superhero and Solomon’s best friend) to travel to the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as Houston, Texas. The three are soon embroiled in a sinister plot to turn the Lone Star State into the Inverted Pentagram State. Thankfully, they have the assistance of another hero – a woman known as Shark.
The plot is fairly straight forward superheroic action, but what really sells this story is the interactions between the characters and writer Drew Edwards’ willingness to get into territory some would consider touchy. Specifically, how you have two heroes who are Christians of varying levels of devoutness and one who is a pagan for the good and practical reason that, well, my dad is a Greek God. I sort of have to believe in him.
What amused me the most about this was Ron’s arguments that The Devil isn’t real, despite Solomon’s assurances that he punched Ol’ Mister Scratch once. Of course Ron isn’t unreasonable when he points out that there’s a lot of weird stuff out there and a lot of it could just be pretending to be the chief Adversary of the Christian faith.
This is the same sort of comedic character development we’ve often seen in Gaiman, Butcher and Pratchett, with characters who deal with the supernatural and acknowledge that certain things are real, but just because they exist doesn’t mean we have to worship the bastards. The heck of it is that Edwards’ script handles all this in a respectful manner, even as the characters debate semantics. In the end, everyone agrees that there is Evil with a Capital E and they will personally fight it, whatever their reasons and faith.
Sadly, the artwork doesn’t quite live up to the story. John Sowder’s artwork is uneven, with varying levels of ink thickness and off-model character designs throughout the book. There are also several sequences, such as where the backgrounds for Shark and the chief villain are explained , that the story flow becomes difficult to follow until you realize there’s two colors of dialogue box being used to tell two stories. This isn’t a bad idea, but a uniform panel layout would have made things clearer.
Still, despite being a bit difficult to work through visually, this comic makes it clear why Drew Edwards was honored with the 2018 Best of Austin award for Best Comic Creator. There’s nothing quite like Halloween Man on the stands and American Nightmare is another solid entry in the saga.
Halloween Man: American Nightmare is now available on Comixology.