Exploring the Disappearance of Will Byers in the Stranger Things #1 Review
Written by Jody Houser
Pencils by Stefano Martino
Inks by Keith Champagne
Colors by Lauren Affe
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Movie and TV adaptations have a long tradition in comics, so it was only a matter of time before someone would give us a Stranger Things comic. It’s no big surprise either that this adaptation would come from Dark Horse. Let’s face it, Dark Horse started out as adaptation comics. From Aliens to Terminator and everything in between, Dark Horse has given us some great (and some not so great) adaptations of beloved properties over the years.
Netflix’s Stranger Things is one of the most popular shows you can watch on streaming TV today. Because of that, the adaptation is a big deal. Stranger Things manages to capture the feeling of the 80s for many of us brought up during that time. The show has even proven popular for those who came up after the 80’s were long gone. The Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things serves as a sort of time capsule and shows us why Dungeons and Dragons is so cool and why people still play Galaga.
That is where Dark Horse’s adaptation of Stranger Things comes in. It attempts to bridge the gap between the show and comics. It sets out to do this by not rehashing what we have already seen but by showing us what we didn’t see. The first season of the series revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers and this is where the Dark Horse series pics up. The comic serves to show us what happened to Will in the Upside Down.
The first issue begins after Will has been transferred to the Upside Down. Here, excised from the normal world we find him fleeing the Demogorgon while attempting to make sense of where he is. The writing of the first issue begins to fill in the blanks beautifully and any fan of the show will know immediately what’s going on. Sadly, I think someone who has not seen the show may find themselves lost at first. As the issue goes on though Houser begins to pull more from the series and even new readers will understand what is going on.
One of the hardest tasks I think adaptations such as this struggle with is how to portray the characters you see on the screen. This proves to be a problem here. While the art serves to move the story along many of the panels are stiff. This stiffness, I think derives from Martino’s attempt to render the children in a recognizable way.
Often Will’s eyes are cut in one direction as he looks for the monster chasing him while he moves around in the Upside Down. Eye movement often serves as the only motion within the panels as his head remains stationary. Inking also goes awry, characters are frequently rendered with a heavy outline that would be suited for more traditional comics. This while backgrounds are meticulously rendered. Such attention to detail is well welcomed as backgrounds are often overlooked but here they outshine the characters.
Overall, the first issue of Stranger Things is greater than the sum of all its parts. Reading it reminded me of the series which I haven’t returned to since I binge watched it when it first came out. This I think is the hallmark of a good adaptation: it expands upon the source material and makes you want to return to it. Hopefully, with time, all involved will find their footing and deliver to us a comic worthy of one of the best shows on streaming media..
The hallmark of a good adaptation: it expands upon the source material and makes you want to return to it.