In Review: Avengers: Halloween Special #1

There's sure to be something in this for every Marvel fan.

The covers: A pair to track down if you’d like double goodies. The Regular cover is by Geoff Shaw and Rain Beredo. Three trick or treaters have stumbled upon several jack o’lanterns with Avenger faces carved into them. Watching over this illuminated scene is a scarecrow. It’s Venom as the lanky guardian, looking as though he’s ready to eat the children. Good idea for a cover, but there’s a lot of empty space in the upper left, with the logo squished way up in that corner. Better is the Variant cover is by Gerardo Zaffino. Tony Stark is a mad scientist tilting back his head in a roar of triumph. His latest creation awakens: a combination of several Avengers — Thor’s head, Captain America’s chest, the Hulk’s right arm, and the Thing’s left arm. The laboratory looks like it’s out of Universal’s classic Frankenstein film. Great colors on this. Overall grades: Regular B- and Variant A

The stories: “The Eyes Have It” is by Rob Fee and has Matt Murdock undergoing an operation to get his sight back. He does, but not in the way he wanted. This is an okay story featuring several familiar Daredevil characters, with an ending that’s the ultimate downer. This came off as the typical melodramatic Daredevil story. “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?” by Gerry Duggan is a great tale imagining that Doctor Doom believes the Fantastic Four not to be who they say they are. He attacks them and there’s a really fantastic twist at the end. This was a superior read. “The Thing From Another Time” is by Jen and Sylvia Soska and has Tony Stark sending in a pair of hired guns, Deadpool and Colossus, to retrieve Captain America who’s reawakened. The love one would have for this tale would depend on what one thinks of the Deadpool films. This interesting take on one of John Carpenter’s best films would have been much better without the Merc with a Mouth. “Punisher of the Opera” by Jay Baruchel is a masterpiece. The Phantom of Opera is only slightly changed to have Frank Castle become the vengeful spirit of the opera. I love how closely this follows the original tale, yet still remains a Punisher story. Heck, I’d buy a limited series based on this. “Haunted Mansion” is by Robbie Thompson and it gave me goosebumps and made me smile. Two trick or treaters decide to venture into the abandoned Xavier’s School for the Gifted. Once inside something happens and someone appears. The ending is fantastic. THIS is what I want of modern day X-Men tales. A perfect ending for this collection of tales. Overall grades: “The Eyes Have It” C, “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?” A+, “The Thing From Another Time” C-, “Punisher of the Opera” A+ , and “Haunted Mansion” A+. 

The art: Eoin Marron is the artist of Rob Fee’s tale. I really like the point of view of this tale when shown though Matt’s now functioning eyes. However, the visuals were too angular for me to enjoy. Plus, what the villain is holding on the final page was too similar to another comic book villain. Laura Braga illustrates “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?” and this is also very angular art. Doom looks fine, but the style is not working on those characters who show their skin. I did like that the final reveal is not completely shown to the reader, leaving that horror only for one character. Jonas Scharf is responsible for the visuals on “The Thing From Another World” and they look really chunky. Tony Stark looks great and that’s all I can say about the characters. Schraf uses a lot of dark spaces for the look of the characters and all it does is make things look messy. If there had been thinner lines in the art, more details could have been placed in the horrors. This story doesn’t look as though it took long to create. The Punisher tale is illustrated by Luca Pizzari and it looks great. The opera house is sumptuous, the villains gloriously vain and evil looking (with one looking appropriately pilfered from a classic Disney cartoon), Frank looks great, and the violence exciting and graphic. Seriously, this should have been a miniseries. The final tale’s art is by Bob Quinn and it’s a perfect match for the story. The entrance of the two children into the mansion is ominous and the individuals they encounter look incredible. That smile in the third panel on the last page made me smile. The item found in the last panel was wonderful. I absolutely loved this. Overall grades: “The Eyes Have It” C-, “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?” C+, “The Thing From Another Time” D, “Punisher of the Opera” A+, and “Haunted Mansion” A+. 

The colors: Mike Spicer is the colorist on “The Eyes Have It.” There’s intentionally a faded look to what Matt sees and it’s a tip off to the story’s twist. It makes sense, but the art was just too washed out for me. The second tale is colored by Arif Prianto and the work done on the characters give them a really solid sense of depth, with several characters looking three dimensional. I’m not as pleased with the backgrounds, as they aren’t as smoothly blended as I prefer. The third tale is colored by Jordan Boyd and it’s just tough to see anything clearly. The smudged artwork has him finishing off and creating borders for the visuals. The two pages containing horrific moments are drowning in reds and oranges. So much so, it’s hard to see the art. The Punisher tale has Michael Garland creating the colors. He masterfully creates opulence and age with his colors for the France of long ago. The underworld looks great, the work on the borders is sick in a pale green, and the yellows and oranges during the action increase the drama. Cris Peter is the colorist of “Haunted Mansion.” I like that a light violet/pink is employed for the flashlights the kids use, giving it a very uncommon feel for the sinister surroundings. How this colors the characters that appear is great. I loved the yellows and blues on the final pages, which instantly called back to a classic X-Men age. Overall grades: “The Eyes Have It” C, “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?” B, “The Thing From Another Time” C-, “Punisher of the Opera” A, and “Haunted Mansion” A. 

The letters: VC’s Travis Lanham is the book’s sole letterer. He creates Satana’s opening dialogue, the credits, dialogue and transmissions (the same font), distant voices, yells, scene settings, computer text, journal entries, signage, and a computer voice. I’m not thrilled that the dialogue and transmissions are differed by the shape and color of the text’s balloons; a different font would have been preferable. The distant voices in the Daredevil tale are very cool. I really like the journal entries by the Punisher which have the scrawl of someone obsessed. Overall grade: B

The final line: A decent collection of what are essentially What If? Halloween tales. Some are better written, illustrated, and colored than others, but that’s always the case with a collection of short stories. There’s sure to be something in this for every Marvel fan, with the final two being ones that could support their own limited series. An okay read, albeit an expensive one. Overall grade: B-

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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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