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"Specs #1" Comic Review

Written by Joel Harley

Published by BOOM! Studios

article-cover

Written by David M. Booher
Illustrated by Chris Shehan
Colored by Roman Stevens
Lettered by Jim Campbell
2022, 21 pages
Comic released on 9th November 2022

Review:

With more than a nod to John Carpenter's They Live (it's on the cover and everything), this is a teenage horror story of magic sunglasses, bought from the back pages of a pulp comic book. After inheriting boxes full of his brother's crap comics, Kenny and best friend Ted decide to order a pair of The Phenomenal Gamma Ray's 'magic specs.' But rather than revealing a world of shadowy conspiracy, these sunnies instead grant their wearers' wildest dreams. Well, not that wild. As Kenny and Ted are quick to learn, its powers do have limits. Infinite video game lives rather than infinite life lives. 

And, as this comic makes its horror bona fides known, Ted and Kenny could do with a few spare lives.

Click images to enlarge.

Set in 1987 America, this supernatural horror story is more Goosebumps than John Carpenter, although there are enough flourishes of darkness (an ominous missing person's notice on a milk carton; a bloody switchblade) to appeal to older readers. In its tale of unrequited love between a boy and his best friend, writer David M. Booher sets up an interesting quandary and enticing stakes. Will Kenny use his magic specs to make best friend Ted reciprocate his own feelings? The story starts out simple enough, but there's room for this to get darker and more difficult before the end is up.

Booher's dialogue disguises the daft gimmick, almost doing enough for readers to not be asking why a pair of teenagers would waste their money on a pair of mail-order glasses from a comic book. Pop culture references and creative (and horrible) synonyms for 'gay' are the order of the day, with Booher seeding tension and foreboding with Kenny's thirty-five-year-in-the-future narration. 

Click images to enlarge.

The story and dialogue are well-matched to the work of illustrator Chris Shehan, who continues the 80s' Stranger Things/Stephen King vibes. The art is understated but effective - the characters well-defined, if somewhat inexpressive. Colourist Roman Stevens drenches the thing in gloom, brightening up only for the specs' bright red lens. This grounds an otherwise daft concept in reality, while flashes of violence and the school bullies' homophobic language remind readers what sort of story we're in for.

Specs #1 opens a classic Goosebumps / Twilight Zone scenario, modernised with a fresh new dynamic at its heart, and a blood-tinted vision of 80s' Americana. 

Grades:

Story: threestars Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
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Buy from Amazon UK.
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Art: threestars
Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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