Pullbox Reviews: Miskatonic High #2 – Rats… why did it have to be rats?

In issue #1, we learned that in the rustic hills of a small New England Berkshire town lies the prestigious Miskatonic High School. When the Community Service Club went on a field trip, they were launched back to ancient Egypt and were nearly killed by an evil wizard and his tentacle monster. They escaped back to our century, but things will never be the same.

In issue #2, for Sarah Clarke, life at Miskatonic High had never been easy, being a poor, rural outcast. But when her friends come to help her on the family apple orchard, secrets better left unknown will be unearthed and she and her classmates will experience a terror in the dark. It’s a full-sized comic, 24 pages and in color.

Family… am I right?

Take Sarah’s case, for instance. Since her dad “moved away” and her mom disappeared, she’s lived with her loving but increasingly forgetful grandmother . They don’t have much, making a living off of the family’s apple orchard and hoping that Sarah can break her family’s streak to do a little better for herself despite her troubled beginnings.

When the kids of Miskatonic High’s Community Service Club volunteer to help out in the orchard for an afternoon, no one’s expecting anything but a quiet afternoon picking apples. What’re the odds that anything odd or potentially life threatening could happen again, after their time-traveling misadventure in old Mrs. Abrahamson’s basement (issue #1)? Things like that just don’t happen that often… right?

Welcome to the hallowed halls of Miskatonic High School, where the strange is never more than one misstep away, fear lurks around every corner, and the unnamable whispers in the darkness.

Fans of either H. P. Lovecraft or John Hughes are going to have a field day with this off the wall title. Mike Shea has imbued Miskatonic High with all of the creeping terror and teenage hijinks that you could hope for, this side of the Mountains of Madness or the Breakfast Club. In the first issue, he brought his adolescent band of merry ne’er-do-wells face to face with an ancient Egyptian sorcerer who planned to release the Old Ones upon an unsuspecting populace. In the second outing for the Miskatonic H.S. Community Service Club, he’s come up with something a little more mundane as the kids find themselves dealing with a rat infested apple orchard and a family secret or two. Just don’t get too complacent out there, folks. Shea started his story out with time travel and evil deities from beyond time and space… he’s left himself with plenty of wiggle room for continued dips into the bizarre and the horrific. That’s just high school, not even taking the Lovecraftian themes into account. It’s a balancing act of wildly disparate themes, giving readers a glimpse of things that prowl in the dark while keeping the overall tone relatively light.

Holding up his end of things, Ryan Mendoza continues to provide bright and cheery illustrations where insanity is glimpsed at the corner of a panel before the reader is shuffled along to the next. His style would be right at home on one of the Archie titles- maybe more so given the inclusion of titles like Vamperonic and Jughead: the Hunger– continuing with the clash of themes in this odd mashup of teen “dramedy” and creeping terror. Mendoza uses clean, uncluttered illustrations and a bright color palette to highlight the mix of mundane and strange, and it makes the whole arrangement feel familiar… comfortable… right up until the monsters show up to disembowel the unsuspecting.

The biggest drawback, all-too common to crowd funded independent titles, is the time gap between issues. Ideally, this one would find its audience and develop a strong following in order to bring some stability to the series (cuz let’s face it, I just want more). Miskatonic High is a great title for anyone interested in the multiple themes presented. With hints of Scooby Doo mixed in with the already mentioned Lovecraft/Hughes medley of ingredients, the audience is out there waiting to be found. All we really need now is a headless corpse wandering around with a sinister puzzle box to really bring it all together.

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