Howard (The Last Halloween: Children) proves herself an expert in the horror genre and the comics format with five suspenseful, excellently executed short stories—diverse in cast, setting, and horrific monsters—based in individual loneliness and lack. In “The Boy from the Sea,” Nia, a young girl, plays alone while her older sister hangs out with other kids on the beach, perking up when an uncanny, ocean-dwelling boy attempts to befriend her. In “The Girl in the Fields,” queer teen Frankie seeks comfort from her parents’ judgment via a neighbor who’s visible only as an eye viewed through a fence board’s knot. “Mattress, Used” fleshes out the experiences of a college student for whom an old stained mattress represents a hoped-for night’s rest, and two other stories follow characters longing for unlikely creatures’ companionship. Centering female-presenting protagonists of varying ages, ethnicities, and body types, Howard’s black-and-white art style, brilliantly lit and textured with hatching, creates chilling atmospheres. Each story comes to life as Howard draws out thrilling climaxes with agonizingly long sequences that frequently linger on grotesque visuals. Wonderfully terrifying. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)
"The art is stunning, with various shapes and shading used intentionally to amp up the drama. . . . Unsettling in the best way." KIRKUS, Starred Review
"Howard’s black-and-white art style, brilliantly lit and textured with hatching, creates chilling atmospheres. . . . Wonderfully terrifying." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review
"Strong Neil Gaiman vibes. All five of the tales included here were the type that gets under your skin." GEEK MOM
"Striking drawings and suspenseful storytelling." io9
"The black and white illustrations are beautifully drawn and portray inclusive and diverse settings for each story, while also harnessing the horror and the emotion they invoke." YALSA "The Hub"
"A powerful collection of comic book horror stories." CEMETERY DANCE
"All these tales together offer a glimpse into the unsettling horror that can be awaiting each and everyone of us." NO FLYING, NO TIGHTS
"There is not a bad tale in this book. They're all terrifying and will shake you to your core." HORROR DNA
"Like any horror auteur worth their salt, Howard doesn’t just portray the terrors that can happen to our bodies. She excises the fears of our minds, too." CINNAMON MAGAZINE
Gr 7 Up—In this collection of five horror comics, readers' worst fears are hiding in sun-choked stalks of corn, in the longing for rest after a long day, and even in the face of a new friend. Howard relies on a variety of subgenres; in "Mattress Found," she uses body horror to reveal the difficulties and isolation of young adulthood. When a fatigued college student who can barely afford rent, let alone furnish her shared apartment, finds a used mattress on the curb, her happiness is short-lived as the mattress becomes more monster than amenity. "The Boy from the Sea" masterfully blends tragedy and supernatural elements, exploring a sibling relationship that quickly fragments when a mysterious boy promises to be the friend that the younger sister has always hoped for. Howard's illustrations fill the page, plunging readers into her narrative. Dark, monotone etching magnifies the suspense and adds a sense of foreshadowing, though the scares won't be too intense for horror newbies. Final pages include concept art from Howard's early sketches. VERDICT This anthology is immersive but horror lite, making it an excellent introduction to the genre. Recommended for fans of Joe Hill's "Locke & Key" series.—Elise Martinez, Racine, WI
Routine life intersects with the unnatural in five horror tales told through black-and-white comics.
In the opening story, Frankie talks to someone on the other side of the fence; only an eyeball can be seen through a small hole. Frankie is sick of interfering, judgmental parents and seeks connection with someone who understands. This yearning for companionship and comfort is echoed throughout the collection, each time ultimately leading to interactions with unknown beings. A stressed-out student seeks comfort from a mattress found abandoned on the street, which turns out to host a grotesque, flesh-stealing creature. Walking corpses become an old woman’s new companions. A young girl wants to be reunited with her friend the lake monster, who is not so friendly anymore. While each story features some sort of creature or monster, the way they play into the horror differs. Thrilling action, disturbing body horror, unnerving suspense, and deep melancholy can all be found within these tales. The art, consisting of realistic-looking crosshatching lines on white panels, is stunning, with various shapes and shading used intentionally to amp up the drama. The intensity of the stories warrants quick page turns, but all the little details of the art beg to be thoughtfully pored over. Most characters appear White; main characters in one of the stories are cued as Black.
Unsettling in the best way. (concept art) (Graphic horror. 13-adult)