It’s that time of year! The leaves are turning, temperatures are dropping, and soon, a number of creatures, witches, and demons will be storming our homes… for candy!  Mmmmm! Smell that sweet, luscious smell of candy corn! I love this time of year, and I especially love the horror stories that come with it!

Swamp Thing in “The Spread”

The first story in this collection features Swamp Thing as he aides a fellow scientist working to advance human biology by allowing people to live off of sunlight. As you might expect, the experiment goes wrong, and the scientist finds herself swept up in the Green. What probably should have felt more like a horrific experience looked more trippy than anything. Yes, it is terrifying to pet your childhood dog only for them to fall apart, but the overabundance of lifelike plants in various shades of color took away from some of the horror elements I was hoping for. Overall, Seeley delivers a decent story that probably could have been outstanding had it unfolded within an arc.  6/10

 

Batman in “Gorehound”
This is one of those stories where it’s clear that the writer thought they were very clever, but in reality, they weren’t nearly as clever as they thought. Thankfully, Riccardo Federici’s art is INCREDIBLE and worth checking this story out alone. In fact, the art is so good, that I wish it would’ve been a silent issue! It would’ve made it much better. 6/10 (mostly because of the art)

 

Wonder Woman in “Siren Song”

Easily my favorite story of this collection, what I assumed would be a standard horror trope turned into a moving depiction about the various depths and responses of love. When men from a village start disappearing, it’s up to Wonder Woman to help solve this mystery. Based on the title and set-up, I expected this to turn out to be one of the more generic narratives in this collection but was pleasantly surprised to discover there was so much more to this story! There’s a lot of depth here and it’s quite inspirational. And yet again, we’re introduced to another incredible artist that deserves consistent work on a title!  8.5/10

 

Guy Gardner in “Life Sentence”

When you ask people who their favorite Green Lantern is, I’m willing to bet most people will answer Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner. I can’t complain about those answers because I, too, would most likely pick Kyle Rayner. But, if you were to ask me which Lantern was the most entertaining to read, I’d have to say Guy Gardner! This short story is no exception. While having a little “R&R,” Guy is unexpectedly called into action to investigate a rogue ship that is unresponsive and hurdling towards a planet. It’s up to Guy to investigate the ship, and in doing so he finds a threat that has unexpected connections to the Green Lantern Corps. This is far from a scary narrative, but a fun and engaging story instead. I mean, Guy uses his ring to conjure up a chainsaw, bowling ball, and a freaking clothing iron as a weapon! What’s not to love? Kenny Porter’s script is illustrated by Riley Rossmo’s quirky art, and the two pair together well enough to make this entry one to remember. 7/10

 

The Demon in “Yellow Jack”

Where the Batman story, “Gorehound,” failed to deliver a clever, unexpecting story, this entry makes up for that attempt. Taking place in New Orleans during the 1800’s, we witness a city that is being ravaged by yellow fever. But that isn’t the only trauma New Orleans is having to endure considering Etrigan is attacking its citizens at night. Sound odd? Exactly. There are quite a few things in this story that aren’t necessarily what they seem, and despite being short in length, the narrative is packed full of plot, characterization, and context.

If there’s any praise I can give “Yellow Jack,” it’s that after reading the issue, I really want to go purchase a number of Etrigan stories and binge-read them. Gabriel Hardman and Trish Mulvihill also illustrate and color the story to perfection, playing heavily into shadow and texture. Aside from one scene where I questioned the dialogue (a scene that turned out to be intentionally written that way), I thoroughly enjoyed this story from start to finish. 8/10

 

Superman in “Strange Visitor”

Much like “Siren Song,” there are times when I read short stories in collections and wish they could receive a full issue or even an arc. This is one of those instances. While I will admit that I didn’t find the conclusion very satisfying, I did enjoy the initial mystery and set-up. Something evil is haunting Superman… Or so it would seem. While Clark senses a dangerous energy, it’s unclear whether there actually is a dark energy, or if it is just his mind playing tricks on him.

Part of what makes this story work is the fact that Superman is vulnerable to magic, and that could pose the question of how he would fair against a dark entity – say a demon or spirit. Would that be classified as magic? Would it pose a threat to our hero? Each of these elements intrigued me, and the psychological aspects of the narrative only added to the layers of the story. And of course, all of this is illustrated by the brilliant Minkyu Jung! You can’t really go wrong. 7/10

 

Green Arrow in “The Monster in Me”

Usually, when specials like this are released, there’s an abundance of stories that are just average. You’ll read them, and then an hour later, you’re not going to remember details of the story because nothing about it sticks. That’s how I feel about “The Monster in Me.” There’s a heatwave in Seattle, and it has people – including Ollie – acting abnormally. In fact, Ollie has a monster after him… or perhaps it’s just exhaustion. I’ll let you read the story and decide for yourself.  5/10

 

Black Lightning and Katana in “Mercy Killing”

Well if this is what we can expect from the upcoming Batman & the Outsiders, then color me excited! It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Katana, and now that I’ve taken the time to expose myself to Black Lightning, I’ve grown quite fond of him as well! This story features our two heroes traveling to Japan to help a girl who is being haunted by a demon. Similar to stories like The Ring, a demonic presence has latched itself to a young child and will come within a certain number of days to take her life. It’s creepy and fun all at the same time.

While the plot itself is solid, I’m more interested in the relationship between Katana and Black Lightning. Although brief, there’s some great commentary on the occult, belief, and the duty of a hero that it made for a gripping, quick read. In addition to this, we see the beginnings of a great partnership that is destined to be based in integrity and honor between these two heroes. Since Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy both contributed to this story, I’m going to assume that this is, in fact, a tease for what’s to come! 8/10

 

Robin and Solomon Grundy in “The Devil You Know”

Ugh… What a dud! When I realized that there would be a story with Damian and Solomon Grundy, I hoped it would be a horror/ comedy. I mean, think about it, these two teaming up should be golden! Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s a mess. From start to finish, this is easily the worst entry in this collection, and I can’t bring myself to recommend it. On top of certain story elements being questionable (Pyg infers that he’s on a date with three underage girls that he kidnapped), the dialogue itself is so bad and out of character that I question how the writer got his job. I mean… He has Pyg say, “Bro.” Come on… 3/10

 

Zatanna in “Halloween Hayride”

“Halloween Hayride” is another entry in this collection that feels special. Rather than embrace horror elements like most of the other stories, James Tynion decided to embrace nostalgia and the magic that makes Halloween so much fun when you’re a kid. The story features Zatanna coming across kids who are about to partake in a hayride, and two of the boys are bullying a young girl. She decides to do what she does best to teach the boys a lesson and give the girl a night of her life that she’ll never forget!

This story takes me back to when I was a kid and would attend hayrides around this time of year. I miss those days but am happy I’m able to experience them with my nieces and nephews. Mark Buckingham and Jordie Bellaire deserve a ton of credit for bringing Tynion’s script to life. The colors and scenery create the definition of fall, and provide the perfect tone for a story such as this! 7.5/10

 

Recommended if:

  • You love Halloween!
  • You’re down to experience some quick, entertaining stories.

Overall: While there are a number of duds in this special, there are equally as many stories that will surprise you! With entries like the ones featuring Wonder Woman, Etrigan, and Katana/ Black Lightning, I’m confident you’ll find your money and time well-spent.

Overall Score: 6.5/10