As Jess Taylor’s trippy cover suggests, this third chapter of the four-part series Our Final Halloween, currently funding on Kickstarter, sees a number of months go by. The Deadworlder threat from the first issue bides its time over the summer of 1985 while looming large over the young heroes.
The first issue of Our Final Halloween was released digitally on Halloween 2018 via Kickstarter – it was an event comic, all set on the one night of October 31st 1984. The remaining three-issue story that grew from the then one-shot is the aftermath of that night. While issue #2 saw the immediate fallout, the third issue fills the gap of the next summer, all leading towards a finale set a year after the first.
The opening pages of issue #3 see a big turn in the direction of the overall story. This twist is definitely a surprise after the set-up at the end of #2, but it nonetheless keeps with the same momentum and reinforces the ever-present threat of the Deadworlders. I’m keeping cryptic, we won’t spoil it here, but its moments like this in #3 that raise the stakes heading into the story’s conclusion.
To that end, a lot of the space in #3 is also spent properly introducing us to the heroes of the story, the heroes who we’ve known since the start. Kayla, Tark, Alexis and David: through the first two issues, the reader has only really seen each character in the midst of an immediate threat: chased by a demon, covered in blood, in a haunted house. Now in the story, months of time have passed, so these characters can let their guards down again and further reveal themselves as an old group of friends. This rapport was already established throughout the last two stories, but it takes centre stage when the group are no longer fighting or running for their lives.
This deeper insight into the characters’ relationships is revealed pretty efficiently too through a sequence of two-page spreads, showing calendar pages graffitied with the notes of the group – conversations between the four friends over the summer of 1985. These notes develop the story of their failing investigation of the Deadworlders, but are also interspersed with notes about their movie nights and the rest of the summer. The pages draw attention to each character and their distinct voice, which are each recognisable even with only a few different fonts on the page. These details highlight the synergy between writer Mike Garley and letterer Michael Stock, who are clearly on the same page for the characters and the tone of the story. This whole passage is a moment of respite to get to know the characters that little bit better, before the horror climax of this penultimate instalment and the final issue.
This calendar sequence is bookended by the group anxiously planning their move against the Deadworlders. This is one among many moments in the book that showcase the effect of Michael Lee-Graham’s colours, which contrast both inside of panels and between the tones set throughout the book. These sequences in the wood, for instance, see the group and their treehouse rendered in a dark burgundy in the foreground, with little-to-no gradation, against glowing orange and yellow trees. They’re soft colours and it’s a rose-tinted summer. Generally, Lee-Graham keeps to three or four colours for a sequence, while complimentary colours are chosen for shadows and balance the characters against their background. By keeping to this four-colour-or-so system, but varying the palettes dramatically throughout the story, Lee-Graham has a firm handle on the tone of each scene while retaining the perspicuous simplicity you would get in a monochrome book.
Any change in tone is signposted immediately and clearly by a new evocative palette. Sequences with action or vivid horror, at the very start and later on in the story, still keep to just a few colours, although these are a lot more more vibrant and surreal to match the graphic content. These sequences also use noticeably bolder lines and actual blacks for shadows, which juxtapose the much softer scenes elsewhere in the issue when the group are removed from immediate threat.
These dark and gruesome sequences interrupt and contrast the comforting image of summer from before. They bring the story back to the horror that kicked it all off, the blood-soaked threat the characters faced in issue #1, and the macabre is brought to the foreground again to set up the finale.
Issue #3 of Our Final Halloween develops our insights into the core group at the heart of the story, before reintroducing the threat and loading the series up for a violent and now all the more impactful conclusion.