Archive Binge: The Last Halloween
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The Last Halloween by Abby Howard is a horror comic that follows the adventures of a little girl called Mona who has been left alone on Halloween night, the very same Halloween night that monsters reveal themselves to be real.
The art style of the comic is a unique monochrome that blends detailed illustration and shading with simple, distinctive and cute character designs. The contrasts are what makes this comic so appealing. The sharp noir two-colour presentation of the art. The switch between cute, gothic influenced creatures and hideously detailed depictions of burnt corpses. Most importantly, the supposition of the sugar sweet core of humour and the vicious world that the characters inhabit.
From the outset there are mysteries built into the story, where the monsters have come from, why some of them are seemingly benevolent. But unlike most stories centred on a mystery each one of these puzzles is resolved regularly with more questions being raised as things develop. The story has many layers, and in each strip another level of strangeness is uncovered.
The rag-tag group of monsters that adopt young Mona and help her on her quest to end the conflict are the driving force of the comic, providing her with protection, purpose and a seemingly endless well of comic relief. They disclose the first layer of answers and are direct Mona to the places she needs to visit to uncover the next layer.
When confronted with the fact that Mona is the designated hero of the story the comic gives the readers a wink, makes some self deprecating comments and then moves on. In fact almost any cliché or trope that the Last Halloween brushes against is acknowledged and politely mocked.
As a general rule webcomics take full advantage of their format, stretching stories out for years at a time, providing small but regular updates to maintain the reader's interest. The Last Halloween is an excellent exception. The story is tightly plotted so that every single strip, even those centred on jokes, drives the characters forward and reveals more about them. To describe the semi-regular updates as “strips” does them a dis-service, a better term might be pages. In fact, if the Last Halloween was moved to a print format some of the updates would probably require several pages at least.
This review is lacking in my usual description and analysis of the plot, this is because half of the delight of the Last Halloween is in the discovery. In meeting and falling in love with the characters for the first time. To take away any of the surprises would be to spoil your enjoyment.
The Last Halloween has been running since 2013, but has yet to break 100 pages and while some might take that as an indictment of the slow update schedule it would be more than unfair since each individual page can take a considerable time to read and fully absorb.
If you have any interest in graphic novels as a genre you would be well served in reading through the Last Halloween, it is one of the first fully developed pieces of art that I have seen using the possibilities of the webcomic format to do something completely new rather than mimicking print media.
The Last Halloween is available online at: http://www.last-halloween.com/