The mystery-drama series Stranger Things has become very popular since it started in July 2016. Centred around the little town of Hawkins, the story follows a group of kids and their self-proclaimed babysitters as they figure out what exactly is behind the strange occurrences. Now that popularity has earned the series several instalments of novels, comics, graphic novels and even games. The most recent of these additional media was the Stranger Things Holiday Specials, a collection of three short comics centred around the holidays celebrated in Hawkins.
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What is the Stranger Things Holiday Specials About?
Each of the three stories in Stranger Things Holiday Specials takes place in the Stranger Things universe at different periods.
The Halloween Special is set just before the events of season 1. On Halloween night, Dustin, Lucas, Mike and Will are gathered in Castle Byers, trying to scare each other with spooky stories, as young boys do on a typical Halloween night after spending hours collecting candy. This one-shot captures the true creepiness of the series and even has the additional light-heartedness that comes after an incredibly stressful situation.
The Winter Special is the most light-hearted of the three one-shots. We find the boys excitedly getting ready to help Eleven celebrate her first Christmas. In addition, some very entertaining character interactions between a couple of characters will make you want to rewatch the series and plenty of small moments that’ll have you chuckling to yourself.
The Summer Special is focused on Powell and Callahan, two cops driving around Hawkins during the events of season 3 and just barely missing certain critical moments of the story. It is the creepiest of the three one-shots and will have you stressing about the survival of the two central characters throughout the story. There are plenty of references and cameos from the main series, some of which will pull a chuckle, others of which will have you feeling sad all over again.
- The Colour Palettes – Each one-shot in Stranger Things Holiday Specials has been done with a palette that perfectly matches its tone. The Halloween and Summer Specials are both creepier stories, so they’ve been done with darker colour palettes. Certain panels in the Halloween special have a faded, eerie look that adds to the story’s tone. The Winter Special is done with lighter-toned and bright colours, which adds to the story’s light-heartedness.
- Entertaining Character Dynamics – One of the best things about Strange Things is the amount of sass exchanged between different characters. The Stranger Things Holidays Specials don’t disappoint in this regard, giving us a taste of the bond between certain characters that we’ve seen blossom throughout the show.
- Character Designs – Not only do the character’s in the one-shots look like the actors that play them (mostly), but there are a couple of panels where characters are shown to have exaggerated facial expressions that fully capture the essence of their personality. In addition, there’s a moment with Hopper that shows off just how jumpy he is regarding Eleven’s safety, and it’s more than likely to pull a chuckle out of a couple of readers.
The design of certain monsters is also very well done. Again, the artists managed to capture their ominousness without putting overly intricate details into them.
- References to the Series – They’re small moments that tie the one-shots in Stranger Things Holiday Specials to the series and make the comics feel more like they’re part of the greater universe than just off to the side.
What Doesn’t Work
- Some Confusing Dialogue and Panels – for the most part, the one-shots are coherent and make perfect sense, but there are one or two panels where it feels like there’s a bit of a gap in the dialogue that breaks the flow of the story and can leave a reader feeling a little confused about what’s going on.
Creators Behind the Stranger Things Holiday Specials?
Each one-shot in Dark Horse’s Stranger Things Holiday Specials was written and drawn by a different collection of artists who took a lot of time making sure that they managed to capture the essence of Stranger Things as a whole, from the snark of characters like Dustin to the colour tones used in certain scenes.
The front cover of the collection was done by Stever Morris, who has done art for several big comic names, including DC, Marvel and the Power Rangers. The Halloween Special was written by Michael Moreci (a comic author who worked on the graphic novel Stranger Things: Kamchatka and Star Wars Adventures: the Clone Wars – Battle Tales), with art done by Todor Hristov and Chirs O’Halloran.
The Winter Special was written by Chris Roberson (a sci-fi author who has worked with both Dark Horse Comics and DC comics), with art done by Abel and DJ Chavis. The Summer Special was written by Keith Champagne (best known for his work done with DC Comics), with art done by Caio Filipe and Dan Jackson.
Blambot’s Nate Piekos (who has also worked on several other Strange Things graphic novel titles) did all the lettering.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
The Stranger Things Holidays Specials are a quick and enjoyable read that captures the essence of the characters that have been established in the story and does a great job of expressing the tone through its use of colour. The Halloween Special, in particular, does a great job of recapturing the feeling of the first season. The one-shots give you a brief chance to view certain characters in a moment of peace outside the life-or-death situations they are often unwillingly thrown into.
If you’re someone that thoroughly enjoyed Stranger Things and is looking for something to fill the void while you wait for the final season to come out (or if you’re just looking for a slightly creepy comic involving characters that you already know), then I would recommend checking out Stranger Things Holiday Specials. Unfortunately, for fans of Max Mayfield, the feisty redhead doesn’t feature in any of the one-shots.
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Tell us, are you looking forward to the upcoming season of Stranger Things?