As a child, I loved to buy books of horror short stories each October, reading each tale as Halloween got closer and closer. I never expected something to jump out behind the trees on Halloween, but the atmosphere and the spirit of Halloween just always gave the stories an extra punch. David Yurkovich's new book, Haunted, doesn't even need that extra push to achieve its goals.
Haunted contains several short stories, each varying in tone and style. One of the two centerpieces of the book, Yurkovich's "Mourners" is a slightly different look at a funeral. It maintains just the right length in terms of suspense; once you see where the path is heading, you've found yourself at the conclusion. (I can't stand stories where the "hook" is discovered early on, only to then have large amounts of unenjoyable padding between it and the finale.) Yurkovich's other original story is really two single page pieces linked together by a common theme. Narrated by the old nursery rhyme, "Star Light, Star Bright" and the prayer, "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep", these two work remarkably well together, and provide a wonderfully grim spin on these familiar words.
The other stories in Haunted are adaptations of other writers's works, but that doesn't make them any less good. The other centerpiece of the book is W.W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw", where Yurkovich has wisely placed all the text on one page, with illustrations on the facing pages to move along with the story. (Otherwise, we'd have a substantially larger book if it was adapted panel-by-panel!) Yurkovich's illustrations for this section are gorgeous, using layers of shading to evoke a mood of doom and despair over this depressing story. (And if you've made it this far in life without reading this classic story, you owe it to yourself all the more to buy Haunted.)
Dianne Pearce contributes the other pieces in Haunted, all of which are aimed at a younger audience. Her poem, "The Ghoulies Parade" is really cute, with a great spot illustration on the facing page by Yurkovich. Likewise, her poem, "Halloween Night" is a lot of fun, in part because of Yurkovich's great panels (the pictures of the kids trick-or-treating are priceless). Only her story, "Rahhh!" seems to fall a little flat, and it was more due to a lack of a real ending than anything else. It's good up until then, though, and would be a great story to tell a very young child getting ready for their first Halloween.
I'm continually amazed with Yurkovich's continually evolving talent; as much as I loved The Broccoli Agenda and The S.H.o.P., this one is all the more impressive in its break in style from Yurkovich's earlier projects. This is definitely one you'll want to buy this October! Haunted is in the current (August 2000) Previews for items shipping in October; it's listed under Sleeping Giant Comics, on page 284. In the meanwhile, Yurkovich's earlier one-shots are available from Mars Import.
visit Greg McElhatton's web site: http://www.gregmce.com