Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The old-school black-and-white sketches are a very good fit for Abby Howard’s macabre sense of humor. This becomes quite apparent in Chapter 4 of The Last Halloween. Characters and horror creatures in previous chapters have generally been more — how do I say it? — adorable? The eight-legged creature that stalks Mona at the opening of the comic looks like something designed by the Jim Henson Creature Shop for the Storytellers series. Visually distinct, but not the stuff of nightmares necessarily.
The monsters of Chapter 4 are more creepily organic like hairless, feral humans. They actually remind me of the creature from XTro, a little-known horror classic that most people would write off as camp until that backward-jointed creature shambles onto the screen.
When the webcomic reality show Strip Search ran last year, Abby Howard emerged as one of my favorites. As the youngest of the group, she had the least experience out of any of the contestants (eventual winner Katie Rice, for example, had worked for years in animation.) She was quite the character, though: When asked if she would consider taxidermy, Howard admitted she’d been interested in the subject for a while. She had some good jabs at Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins’ expense in the final episode, regarding how they were trying to paint her as a villain in line with reality-show tropes. It was my favorite moment in the series.
In the finals, Howard drew with a more traditional style than her competitors. The Last Halloween was rendered in heavy black and white, with macabre style reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Jhonen Vasquez. Krahulik and Holkins remarked on the designs of her creatures and her great grasp of anatomy — honed, perhaps, by her experience illustrating college textbooks.