Reading Halloween Man #19 got me to thinking about many things. Two of the more unlikely subjects were Garth Ennis and Texas.
I think Drew Edwards might rankle a bit being compared to Garth Ennis, though it seems they might have a lot in common on the surface as writers. Both write about superheroes through a twisted lens, with Edwards’ Halloween Man being a half-undead monster who devours other monsters to prolong his own existence and Ennis writing series about super-powered deviants who inflict ultra-violence on the monsters who are worse than them.
Look behind the blood and dark comedy, however, and you’ll find two writers who truly believe in the idea that ordinary people can be truly good and there is a beauty in trying to make things better, however futile it may be in the end. It’s a very Texan point of view, which is what inspired me to think of Texas – the setting of Halloween Man and much of Preacher.
Texans love a good story and are inclined to overlook the more monstrous aspects of reality to focus on the heroic ideal. This is why I laughed at Preacher when I learned that Jesse Custer’s guiding spirit was the ghost of John Wayne – that quintessential ideal of all things Texan and cowboy machismo. Never mind that The Duke was really named Marion, came from Iowa, disliked horses and dodged the draft so he could stay in the States making war movies while schtüping his Nazi girlfriend.
Reality is a harsh mistress, and we all prefer Platonic visions to harsh reality.
This brings us to Halloween Man #19 – a story that is set Solar City, Texas but it could be set anywhere in reality. This issue finds Halloween Man having to face off with a school-shooter – a scared, outcast teenage boy, whose fear and hatred of his classmates made him the host of a beast that feeds on such things. It is metaphor made manifest and something that Solomon Hitch can’t face in the usual way, so he must rely upon the wisdom of his namesake to bring the greatest possible good out of a bad situation.
Edwards’ script doesn’t pull any punches, nor does it excuse the actions of the young shooter. It does not propose any easy solutions to the problem of campus violence, nor does it preach about the evils of the various things that are usually blamed whenever someone sad and desperate seeks a fatal solution.
The artwork is equally powerful and compelling. Tommaso Campanini’s pencils split the difference between horror and realism, with Gulio Ferrara’s inks highlighting the pencils more than it shades them. The colors by April Guadiana and Jason Wilson are perhaps the most subtle aspect of the art, presenting a bright, four-color facade in the early pages while growing softer in the later pages as Solomon finds himself in more unfamiliar territory.
Halloween Man #19 is a powerful comic about a harsh truth and the sort of thing many people will say should not be examined in comics. Because it is too soon. Because it is too much. Because comics should be about happy stories where the good guys always win. Yet it isn’t always apparent who the good guys are – a fact Solomon Hitch knows all too well – and I say this is precisely the kind of art we need to examine these issues in considering how to stop these things from happening as much in the real world.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: Drew Edwards gave me an advance script of this issue, because he wanted an outside opinion as to whether or not this story was appropriate to his characters or if it was too soon to be making this kind of statement. I assured him that it was and it was not, respectively.]
Halloween Man #19 is now available on Comixology.