Hello, Spongey here.
A bit of an early Stine review this month, as far as where in the month it’s going. I feel like it’ll be like this going forward since this and December will be like that due to other projects needing to be on certain days. I also plan to have February 2021’s be on the 5th. Why that date? You’ll see.
But anyway, today. we’re heading back to IDW comics. I wanted to say we get to wrap them up but between our last review, a new arc called Secrets of the Swamp was announced and is currently running. I was very happy to hear that as I feel there’s even more you even can do with these and I was sad that these seemed to be over.
This one will be interesting compared to the others. It is more scaled back as we’ll see and actually relies on original concepts for most of the plot instead of established books. Infact, until the very end, which we’ll get to, it’s only Goosebumps in terms of the kind of story it is.
If you need a recap of what we’ve been through so far: Monsters at Midnight was a fun romp through HorrorLand that didn’t make a lot of sense. But it had two moms at least. Download and Die was better, being an interesting story with creepy moments but it felt overstuffed. At least it had a gay protagonist.
…Yeah, if you’re not caught up on either these or the reviews, they are quite interesting.
This time we get to see how the comics handle a purely original idea. Art wise, Chris Fengelio from Monsters returns while the writing team is Denton J Tipton and Matthew Dow Smith. Denton was an editor for IDW and has worked on other titles such as X Files and Cobra Kai. Matthew’s list from what I could find includes some Doctor Who, some Supernatural, and a bunch of original stuff too.
So with that crew assembled, we’ll see how this stacks up and if this makes for a fun story. Oh and remember how I said that I got followed by Chris and got a tweet liked by Michelle Wong? Well, the beer has been held because now Jen Vaugn followed my Out of Context account. neat.
Also, let’s get something out of the way: Unless there was a small background thing I missed, this is our first arc with no LGBT characters of any kind. This is sadly the most hetero Goosebumps comic we’ve covered thus far. It’s not a big deal but they were on a roll, dang it!
Incidentally, this is the first to not have an R.L. Stine introduction in the trade. I like to think that was out of protest. Anyway…
This, is Horrors of the Witch House
This is probably the least interesting trade cover but it’s still fine. It gives you can idea of what to expect with them running from this woman in a house, just doesn’t do much beyond that. Some of the individual covers sell the witch part better. So yeah, it’s nothing great but fine.
We begin with a woman named Veruca Curry buying an old house, which is dirty cheap but falls well below market value because, as the realtor explains, it is rumored to be haunted.
“But what’s important is what you think”
“I think it’s perfect”
Well clearly she has no sinister plans for this house at all.
We are introduced to our protagonist Rosie,a shy girl who generally goes unnoticed. She sees that the old Whaley house has been bought and goes to school to tell some kids but sees that a guy named Carlos, who she has a crush on, already discovered it and is telling his friends.
Apparently Veruca is the “youngest female multi-millionaire to come out of Silicon Valley” and honestly with those credentials, of course she’s evil. We meet the last part of our children trio, a sporty girl named Becca Hill who doesn’t buy all the stuff about haunted houses. A few panels full of random kids still spout rumors though, and one of them looks way too much like Ginny from Monsters at Midnight. I kinda wish it just was her so we can get a cinematic universe going.
That night, an outdoors town meeting is held to welcome Veruca. She is accepted pretty quickly but people still think it’s not wise to buy that house. She distracts them into being quiet with this strange coin. Rosie and Becca, who get introduced to each other, don’t get affected because some big guy was in their way. Sure. We’re not exactly being subtle here but already Veruca is proving to be pretty competent.
At home, we see Rosie has a plush of Irk which is cute. And also Slappy and this is thankfully all we get of him, whew. We also see she’s into anime so at least she breaks new ground by being our first weeb protagonist. Rosie, Becca and Carlos are all trying to do their usual stuff but hear strange sounds coming from that house.
On Carlos’ end, we find out the school they go to is Robert Lawrence Middle School. Nice.
All of them happen to be curious enough to check it out, because going towards weird noises is always a good idea. It sounds like hammers and saws and when they peek into the house, they see said hammer and saws…doing their thing all by themselves as Veruca is relaxing, dun dun dun. End of issue 1. …Maybe not quite the most intense cliffhanger but okay.
The next day at lunch, Becca and Carlos meat up with Rosie to discuss what is going on. Also, Carlos says something to make Becca go “Carlos!” and somehow that thing isn’t a bad pun. Before they get too far, Carlos’ friends pull him away because Rosie is a loser and all that.
That night, Veruca taps on her Digital Grimoire. Yes. We then cut Carlos at home where his sock monkey doll comes to life, while Becca is attacked by her spots trophies. Well, this escalated quickly. To cap it off, Rosie anime action figures/dolls/figures attack her. See, I told you anime was evil but who is laughing now?!
The kids manage to take down their tormentors fairly easily. Well, Carlos and Becca do at least, Rosie has slight trouble but eventually wins when she fries her laptop because one of them came from it. Not sure how it affects the others though.
They meet up and figure that Veruca did this as she now knows that they know. Becca suggests telling the adults but Rosie says that based on that coin bit from earlier, they won’t be of much help. Okay, that’s a smart way to deal with the adults.
They spend so much time discussing this that a Gargoyle has time to get the jump on them, ending Issue 2. Well okay then. Also, even taking my skimming aside, that issue felt super short. Oh and the cover for the 3rd issue should have been the trade cove.
Anyway, our final issue does not start with the gargoyle showing off prettifying saliva and instead has the kids waking up in Veruca’s house. They are on a couch as Veruca basically gives a Ted Talk explaining his plans and all that. In the third person for some reason.
And it’s here where we finally get our big Goosebumps connection.
“Veruca Curry is a thoroughly modern witch. A witch on her way up. She’s not obsessed with obsolete tradition like her dearly departed grandmother, Sarabeth”
…Yep. It turns out that Veruca is the granddaughter of Sarabeth from Monster Blood. Can’t say I saw that coming. This is quite the interesting turn. I mean for one…Sarabeth fucks, That’s a thing. Second, it’s genuinely neat to have an offspring of some sort to a Goosebumps character, even if it’s a villain. …Wait, does that mean this has turned into the Goosebumps version of Descendants?
With how little we knew about Sarabeth, I suppose there is some wiggle room for her to have a daughter somewhere who would go on to have Veruca. Although it’s still a bit of a stretch. They don’t go into too much more detail here, I assume because doing so would give us the thought that Evan likely exists out here and I get why they would avoid that.
Also, they show a picture of Sarabeth and it’s modeled after the TV episode, as it’s basically the same picture that is on the Goosebumps wiki page.
Anyway, Veruca’s plan is to channel the magical energy from the Whaley House to amplify a very powerful spell that will allow her to control everyone and hopefully take over the world. A much larger scale threat than usual, I like it.
She offers the kids a chance to team up with her but they answer by immediately trying to escape. They do so and take care of the Gargoyle so easily that it’s a bit silly. See, this is why it needed that saliva. They run to the mayor but it turns out the spell has already made him an even more corrupt politician. Sorry, that was too easy,
We get a bunch of running as more adults come under her spell. Again, a solid way to take care of the adults in a way that adds to the story. Back at Veruca’s house, she looks at what is basically Witch Twitter where we see a tweet from Clarissa (Be Careful what You Wish For) tagging a bunch of other Goosebumps witches in a tweet, those being: Aunt Dahlia (An Old Story), Belladonna (Five Masks of Doctor Screem), and Mrs. Forester (Home Sweet Home).
That’s neat but it’s pretty obvious that they looked through the Witches category on the wiki because otherwise how would they remember Belladonna? That and almost every person in that category at the time is on there. The only two absent are Iris from Revenge R Us and Vanessa from Chicken Chicken. I don’t mind Revenge R US being ignored but I am disappointed Vanessa was left out. Frankly when this first came out my money was on Veruca being Vanessa lol.
(Also, Dahlia being around on the internet is horrifying if you knew her uh…shtick)
ANYWAY, the kids sneak back into the house and confront Veruca in the basement. Carlos pretends to accept her off, saying he’s so used to being at top at school that he doesn’t want to lose that. Finally slightly tapping into character stuff, even if it’s of course fake.
Rosie swoops in to steal her tablet and after a bit, Rosie tosses the tablet into a bucket of water, frying in. It’s worth noting that something like this is what she did to her laptop earlier so it’s a decent setup and payoff.
Veruca tries to take it out but ends up spelling the bucket of water on herself…and as they say, old defenses still work on modern witches so she melts to death. Wow, the one that tries the least to be scary has our first on page death in these. Nice.
With that, the spell is broken and the adults stop, with no memory of what they were doing. Rosie’s dad wants to regain his memory over some ice cream, and he invites Rosie and her new friends over for some.
Later, they go home and clean up the mess Veruca made earlier, and Rosie’s tablet…cackles I guess as it loads. So I guess Veruca’s magic is still there, or she’s coming back to life or…something. I don’t know, it’s far cleaner than the previous twists, I’ll give it that much.
And yep, that’s the end, it just kinda stops there. K. And wait a minute, there’s a scene I skipped where someone from “First City Meats” knocks on Veruca’s door and she drags him in…and we never see him again! What was up with that?
So this one leaves me generally positive but conflicted in some areas. But in general, it’s good and even addresses some complaints I had for the previous arcs. Most notably, the story feels a lot cleaner and more logical. There are some questions, like about Whaley House but it’s not really that important. Otherwise, things make enough sense and it’s not overstuffed.
The tradeoff is that it’s a bit less “ambitious” than Download and Die and is closer to Monsters at Midnight. The story is certainly cleaner and more logical than Download but it doesn’t hit the highs and in general that does most things better. Of all these, it tries the least to be scary which is fine as the story has enough stakes to make that work.
The artwork reflects this as it goes even more cartoon-y than before and I know that’s a turn off for some and some bits can loom off but otherwise it looks good for this story. I especially enjoy the expressions ob Veruca, they clearly had some fun with her.
Speaking of which, Veruca is the best part of this. The concept of her plan is an interesting one and she does prove to be a fun original baddie. The way she starts to take over the town makes for some decent stakes and once again, is able to nicely take care of the adults. The twist with her connection to a certain someone was really cool as well.
Rosie and her friends were fine enough protagonists, although there wasn’t quite as much to them as with the kids in the previous arcs, weirdly enough. They fit typical archetypes and the only real arc we have is on the basic end. Also, Rosie having a thing for Carlos doesn’t really go anywhere. Granted, that’s stuff more than we usually get with Goosebumps but I did expect more. Although given the story, I suppose basic stuff is fine given even this series isn’t reaching for the stars per say.
My main problem is the pacing. While it’s not stuffed and most of it is paced fine, it does feel like things can happen too fast and not much happens despite the conflict. I wish Veruca’s control over the town was more gradual than it was, maybe have her control get tighter as it goes on instead of being like a switch.
There’s just parts where I wish there was a bit more to certain things. I am so glad that Secrets of the Swamp is 5 issues as I feel like having only three weighs these down a bit. This story is more involved than Monsters so it needed more space.
So all three of these so far do have their pros and cons, and I wish we had one I could just say is very even all the way through with few flaws. Something with the tight logic and less overly complicated of this and the sort of ambition of the previous one. As it is, each is fun in its own right. In my ranking, Download and Die is easily the best as it handles the characters the best and unlike this, the pacing felt generally more gradual for the most part.
Monsters at Midnight is the weakest due to the spotty logic and such but I will admit it has slightly better character stuff at times. That puts Horror of the Witch House in the middle. Overall, it improves some flaws from the others and has a generally fine story with a fun villain and decent stakes, but has some rushed pacing and can be a bit basic in some areas.
Still, it all works. For its flaws, it’s still a mostly fun time. Totally needed more gay though.
Well, that caps these off for now. It really is cool to see what people do with this world and it has resulted in some neat stuff. I gotta give them credit with some of what they did in here. Hopefully Swamp can keep it up. Not sure when I’ll get to it but we’ll see.
Next time, it’ll be December. So let’s celebrate by returning to prose with a holly jolly set of tales.