Written by, Jody Houser
Pencils by, Stefano Martino
Inks by, Keith Champagne
Colors by, Lauren Affe
Letters by, Nate Piekos of Blambot
Will Byers is stuck in a realm that is a creepy version of his own. He’s fleeing from the Demogorgon, but still hopeful that he can return home. While the Netflix original show focused a lot of time on the survivors and their attempt to locate Will, the comic focuses on what happened to Will and, more importantly, how he survives.
One would think, that a story about a small boy lost in a creepy dimension with a dangerous monster lurking about would feel tense. This doesn’t. In the Netflix show, intrigue is increased by the unknown. Very little is shown about Will during the entire 13 episodes of the first season. What happens when you try to fill in those gaps? Does the story remain interesting or does it fall flat? The answer: sometimes. The part that lets us know more about Will’s mental and emotional state really work. For example, Will’s inner narrative reveals his bravery and his ingenuity as he searches for a way to communicate with his mother and both warn her about the monster and escape from this realm where he’s been captured. What also feels earned is the way the book reinforces the strong connection between Will and his mother. For example, Will figures out how his mother is setting up ways for them to communicate with each other.
However, parts of this story fall flat. For example, it flashes to portions previously shown in the Netflix series, like his friends playing a board game. These portions are uninspiring because the narrative is less engaging then what was seen in the show. Will’s friends lack the originality and spontaneity of their televised versions. In addition, the visual aesthetic of the comic lacks punch. Partly, this is due to the art being minimal in places and lacking in details. The advantage with this art is that it could make this story more accessible for younger audiences because it lacks the fear-factor and gore of the show. The disadvantage of this art style is that it feels bland and unimaginative.
I couldn’t help but make comparisons with the show when I read this book. To an extent, I believe the publisher is counting on it. Most viewers agree that Will was a very likable character; it’s what makes the emotional tension feel earned because we want him to survive. Opening this book and learning that it is mostly about Will seemed to be a good premise. However, it falls flat because it lacks the creativity and originality of the Netflix series. Overall = 7/10