In Review: Spirit Hunters #8

The haunted campgrounds trope gets a decent spin.

The covers: A woman named is out in the woods and it’s not because she expected a hostile spirit to attack her. This is the A cover by Anthony Spay and Jorge Cortes: The woman turns in surprise because a specter has grabbed her shoulder. She looks great and it looks creepy. Spay has also done a good job on the background, with the forest looking complete. Cortes has done a good job on the coloring, with the woman standing out against the dark background and the ghost a fright in white. The B cover by Harvey Tolibao and Mohan Sivakami is the most frightening of all the covers for this installment. A teenage boy is in a small boat and is screaming at the hundreds of hands emerging from the water looking to grasp him. Behind him is a fantastic looking tree that is as creepy as all the hands. Great coloring on this as well from Sivakami, with a great back lighting effect on the tree and a nice mist effect done with colors. This is the kind of cover to promote the horror elements of this book. Next up is the C by Alfredo Reyes and Ceci de la Cruz. This is the cheesecake cover of the regular covers this month: a thin blonde woman in a red bikini knee deep in a lake looking around in wonder trying to figure out why something just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it has something do to with all the mist skulls that are gathering behind her. Nice illustration and good coloring. The final regular cover is excellent. Four women are around a campfire tying to get warm. They can’t see the two specters that are flying about them, doing all they can to menace the young women. This is another Zenescope cover with beautiful women on it, but the spirits are really deserving the focus for their ferocious faces and the killer trails of smoke that come to life with the spectacular coloring. Really cool. Outstanding job on the D cover by Pasquale Qualano and Hedwin Zaldivar. The Wizard World Philadelphia Exclusive (limited to 350) is by Elias Chatzoudis and features a beautiful blonde woman wearing a a Philadelphia Eagles tee shirt, though it’s been cut off at her breast line. She’s wearing matching short shorts. She looks beautiful and this is a must buy, especially for fans of the Eagles. There’s also another version by the same artist limited to 75 copies, where the top is gone, replaced by the Eagles logo functioning as nipple covers. More skin is showing, so it’s going to be more difficult to find this one, fans. The final cover Variant is the Wizard World Philadelphia Special Edition (limited to 50) by Paul Green. I couldn’t find a copy of this online, so good luck tracking that one down. Overall grades: A A-, B A+, C B+, D A+, and Wizard World Philadelphia Exclusive (both) A

The story: Several writers developed this story, Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Pat Shand, Dave Franchini, and Troy Brownfield, with Brownfield ultimately writing it. “Campgrounds” begins seven years ago at Lake Kryos, where Olivia, a preteen girl, stands at the edge of a pier, looking down at a hand in the water. An off panel voice screams for help, but the girl does nothing, save smile as the hand disappears. Shortly after, the police arrive and Olivia is taken away to be cared for by a counselor, while Park Ranger Phelps says, “I’m going to clean things up here.” A transition to the present has Vera calling the gang together: they’re going to Kentucky, prompting Ellen to say, “A potentially haunted lake. That’s just lovely.” I was glad to see that the writers acknowledged the Friday the 13th films immediately, allowing the characters to play up on their fears and nerd knowledge. The group breaks into teams, allowing one member to have a flashback which lets the reader see a bit of this character’s damaged past. Naturally Ellen gets the majority of the spirit action, as she can see the spooks, and things do get violent in the climax. Before this occurs, there’s a very interesting interview with someone who might have information about the hauntings and this is very eerie. All is revealed on the final page, and it comes across as an information dump. If the story had been stretched for another issue or had another five pages, the ending could have been smoother. Still, this is a different tale of terror at a camp and for that I’m appreciative. Overall grade: B+

The art: The first page opens with four vertical panels that zoom in to the woods, showing appropriate wildlife, only disturbed by a scream of “NOOO!” The next two pages have an interesting layout: the first has a large panel establishing the setting, moving to a full reveal of Olivia, then going to a tight close-up of her eyes that look displeased, ending with a hand grasping out of the water. Next is a full-paged splash of Olivia in profile, with three panels showing the hand disappearing in the lake. What’s neat about this page is that the hand panels bisect the image of Olivia, with her mouth shown underneath them, with her smiling. This is an excellent way by Jason Muhr or Joe Sanchez Diaz (there’s no notation which of these credited artists is responsible for these pages) to make the little girl an instant antagonist. Vera’s introduction is great, with the point of view looking down on her at her computer; I love that she’s leaning back and has one foot on the table. Page 7 has a change in artists, as the work becomes much more angular, but it looks really good. The settings are strong with this artist, as shown by the exceptional work done with the foliage and the exceptional panel on top of 9. The other artist returns on 9 and it’s a noticeable difference. It’s hard to tell how fast Ellen is moving through the forest in the pages that follow because her hair is constantly off her shoulders, making a reader think she’s really moving at a good clip, while the individual she’s after doesn’t seem to be going along as briskly. The attack on 18 is really well done; the movement is great on the characters and the water work is very convincing. The culmination on 20 is not as good, with the second panel being too much of a reaction, though the third panel is incredibly sinister, having me wish that this visual could have featured more into the story. The final panel required a considerable amount of space by the artist to leave empty so that the letterer could drop in all the explanations, but evidently not that much was needed, as the top left is really empty. There are visuals to enjoy and others to question in this issue. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: Robby Bevard is the colorist for this issue and his work is decent. The opening page that moves into the forest drowns a little in blues and greens, with the trees becoming a blur, but things improve on the next page. Bevard aptly uses colors to draw the reader’s eye to the signage and the figure in the distance, with Olivia becoming the focus nicely with her camp tee shirt. The colors on the water are also well done. The use of reds to show the light from the squad car are really good on Page 4. The flashback panels have a warm pink glow to them, which is in complete opposition to what’s occurring. Ellen’s trek through the forest has got an excellent orange to show the setting of the sun. The ghost at the end of the story has got an appropriately pale complexion, but it takes away too much from the visual, making it difficult to make out the character’s face, especially when the character is seen from a distance. As with the art, parts to like and parts to wonder about. Overall grade: B 

The letters: Narration, screams, yells, dialogue, sounds, and the tease for next issue come from Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios. Sounds aren’t really needed in this issue, but yells and screams are. Esposito uses several different types of font for these and their size and shape expertly tell the reader how intensely the characters bellow. My favorites are on 11, 17, and 18. The majority of Esposito’s skills are needed for dialogue and he’s able to place a uniform, readable text in the panels regardless of their size. Another good job from Esposito. Ovearll grade: A

The final line: The haunted campgrounds trope gets a decent spin. The explanation for the supernatural happenings is a little too much, too late and the art is mixed, but this is still enjoyable. Overall grade: B

To purchase a print copy go to https://shop.zenescope.com/products/spirit-hunters-8

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Spirit-Hunters-8-of-12/digital-comic/506882?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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