CAMPFIRE STORIES ANTHOLOGY
Writer: Asa Wheatley
Artists: Kevin Keane, Raquel Kusiak, Garry Mac, Sammy Ward, Elena Gogou
WHAT IS IT?
Campfire Stories is a series of shorts based around Ruby Rivers Summer Camp, where five camp counselors tell scary stories based in different time periods around a campfire. The anthology features Wheatley's writing, with each short illustrated by a different artist and lettered by Lucas Gattoni.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Each story deals with a different horror trope, though each is set in or around the grounds of the camp proper.
We get a tale of girlish black magic, a lone traveler, a family trip gone wrong and an epilogue that draws out the big reveal for even more horror set in the future.
The concept is great and the execution largely follows suit. Wheatley is not afraid to go for the jugular when it comes to both gore and weirdness. This isn't a campfire for kids, folks – these stories have serious consequences, and there's some definite evil at play. I was surprised in a positive way, and that's pretty hard to do in comics these days.
Wheatley's also smart to keep the anthology to one writer. An interconnected story has a better chance of succeeding when it's out of one mind. There's risk here, too, if the skillset isn't up to the task, but Campfire Stories delivers.
Most of the art works well. Keane's style in the overarching story is cartoonish, poppy and appropriate for the general teenage tone, while Mac's smooth digital line and colors suit the abrupt psychedelic shift in "Hungry for More."
Kusiak's creature design in "The Starving Spectre" is impressive and ghoulish, and Ward's blood sprays in "A Ritual of Sacrifice and Power" are unexpected, detailed and delightful. If blood can be delightful.
Gogou's art in the epilogue is arguably the most technically refined, and the snappy color palette suits the otherworldly narrative tone. Gogou also synthesizes elements of each story's style for a cohesive and satisfying ending.
Gattoni's lettering works well, and the font choice bridges all of the shorts and adds a touch of cohesion. The font's youthful and reminiscent of a teenage diary without erring on the side of cutesy styling. Balloon padding is minimal, and the peaky little tails and occasional gory sound effect amplify the horror on the page.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
There are a few story jumps that are confusing. In "The Starving Spectre," the shift from setting up the tents to talking about the strange effigies isn't clear. The art communicates that time is passing, but the dialogue choice seems to pick up mid-argument. The previous spat was about stopping for the night and missing their travel companions, while the first line on the next page is "This is what I'm talking about" in reference to another subject entirely. It's confusing, and the strangeness of the effigy doesn't have enough time to land before the action really takes off.
Similarly, in "A Ritual of Sacrifice and Power," it's not clear that Barbara's the one who brought the girls out to the woods. The blonde appears to be in charge, and that shift feels bumpy and detracts from the drama of the plot reveal.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you're a fan of horror anthologies, Campfire Stories is a great, concise example of how to thread shorts together with a common theme.
If you're a fan of books that might take a swerve and surprise (read: delight) you, Campfire Stories takes some chances in its storytelling that are worth a read.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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All Campfire Stories characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Asa Wheatley or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED