Collecting three haunting shorts that focus on childhood perceptions of the world Halloween Tales is a showcase compilation for the art of Olivier Boiscommun who illustrates all the stories herein. He’s joined by writer D-P Filippi on the final entry which comes from the Humanoids line of translated European comics.
Despite the pronounced Halloween-themed branding of the book there’s actually very little seasonal content here outside of the first offering ‘Halloween’ (below), and even then it’s the merest of colourings on a tale of loss and acceptance. A small group of trick or treaters roam the empty twilight streets of a gothic city but for one of their number – a young girl named Asphodel – the night is tinged with overbearing sadness surrounding the recent loss of her brother. Seeking the solace of her own company she encounters a mysterious yet familiar mime who attempts to help her find her path in life again…
Boiscommun’s art is evocatively melancholic here with its orange-hued tones emphasising its autumnal setting and the sadness and sense of solitude that permeates its pages. This is further accentuated by the seemingly abandoned cityscape that we journey through with the characters and the constant changes in perspective that serve to create the feeling that Asphodel’s loneliness is all-encompassing. The rhyming dialogue, however, doesn’t seem to fit the tone of the story (though admittedly that could hinge on the difficulties of translation) and, while there’s a very poignant premise here, the page count is overlong for the slightness of the plot.
The follow-up recounts ‘The Story of Joe’ (below left), again with both story and art by Boiscommun, introducing us to the young boy of the title and, again, exploring ideas of loneliness as he struggles to deal with a fractured relationship with his father. Illustrated in the most atmospheric black and white, with moody and affecting grey tones giving a feel of the claustophobic and the oppressive, Joe’s encounter with a bat-like creature leads to his supernatural transformation into a winged monstrous creature. Rather than being a story of outright horror, though, this proves to be one of hope and redemption instead.
The final part of this trilogy is ‘The Book of Jack’ (above right) concerning a mysterious tome stolen on a dare from a remote and long abandoned house by a group of children – one that tells the story of the life of Jack, the boy who stole it, as it happens. When one of his bullying peers has Jack’s future written into the book Jack begins to change into a monstrously feline creature. This is the least satisying story in terms of narrative with the origins and nature of the magical artefact at its heart remaining frustratingly elusive though, again, Boiscommun’s visual characterisation is hugely expressive and each panel just brimming with elaborate detail.
Pitched at a younger reader there’s no doubt the work here is touching in its depiction of grief, alienation and seclusion as seen from a child’s eye view of the world and in its examination of the importance of friendship and the ties that bind. But, at the same time, at least two of the stories probably move too slowly and may be a touch too introspective for their target audience and those looking to this volume for the overtly Halloween-themed fare promised by its cover will also find themselves disappointed.
Olivier Boiscommun and D-P Filippi (W), Olivier Boiscommun (A) • Humanoids