The Monster Fun Halloween Special (2021) – Various

4 out of 5

On the one hand, definitely what you’d expect from a kids’ UK humor comic mag: lots of dumb puns and gross-out gags. Puns I can deal with and be amused; gross-out is not my bag, but sure, give the kids what they want – although ideally that comes gooped together with some intelligent humor as well.

While the call is still out on that last bit, what bumps Monster Fun over the line into something befitting its ‘special’ tag is: its undeniable energy in its presentation, and frankly, how much the art absolutely sells that energy. I don’t mean to skip over the writers, but I’d say only half the strips here find that middleground between requiring actual reading skills and just playing things out drolly (or fartsily and burpily) until the inevitable pun. It works – I was grinning or groaning throughout – but when you read the ones that are standouts, it suddenly makes it clear how the other strips don’t stand out. Thankfully, the spacing of those winners is about even, and making up the downbeats, and enhancing the better beats: every single artist’s work here is unique, and bright or moody as needed, and absolutely fitting for the material. These things leap off the page, and I was either bowled over by how some 2000 AD regulars adapted to the format, or found some new greats, page after page, even if I’m grossed out by how many bodily fluids and odors Tom Paterson stuffs into his panels.

There are some hitches here, when it doesn’t feel like the artists quite synched to the rhythm of the inanity, or figured out the exact tone (such as Laurent Lefeuvre’s work on Simon Furman’s Leopard from Lime St., but as the only comparatively serious strip in the book, I would’ve been confused how to handle that also), but the over-arching rule about the energy and quality of the art still applies: every page is engaging to look at.

So it’s a fun set. I am eager to see the next entry, though my preference would be for a more even mix of longer strips + short gags, whereas this special leaned into the latter. But as long as the quality keeps up, it’d still be worth reading for some more eye-rolling chuckles, and new artists to follow.