- R.L. Stine’s Just Beyond: Welcome to Beast Island
- Boom! Studios
- Created & Written by R. L. Stine
- Illustrated by Kelly & Nichole Matthews
- Letters by Mike Fiorentino
- Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco
- Available now!
- print & digital
Siblings Karla & Benny accompanied their Uncle Bill to the remote island of Mala Suerta, looking for new animal species to catalogue in the name of fortune and glory. Upon arriving, things were looking pretty good. The islanders were very friendly, welcoming their visitors with open arms, but things started to take a turn for the worse (but not too bad) when Benny knocks over an ancient jade mask, unleashing a horrifying (kinda) scourge on the hapless trio. Then they knew they were really in trouble when Uncle Bill’s reservation at the local B&B was lost…
Beware the curse of Mala Suerta, the remote island home of the terrifying (but not too terrifying) Koroko!
One of the things that R. L. Stine knows better than anybody is that kids love scary (but not too scary), creepy (but not too creepy), spooky (but not too… you get it, right?) stories. After all his years spent writing books for kids, their squeals of fright mingling with fits of giggles as the twists and turns took them for a ride, we should all be able to agree that he’s pretty good at it. With that expertise, gained over a list of bestsellers longer than Wayne Gretsky’s win tally, you’d have to wonder why we don’t have more stories, maybe even told in the comic book medium.
Wonder no more!
Just Beyond is a series of one-shot graphic novels being published under Boom’s label for youngsters, Kaboom! Welcome to Beast Island isn’t the first in the series, following previous titles The Scare School & The Horror at Happy Landings, but it is the first one to catch my eye. Not gonna lie, it was that outstanding cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco that dragged me in. From there, it was non-stop… okay look, I’m not gonna try to tell you that this book treated me to the same thrills and chills that it might for its intended (and much less jaded or psychologically warped) audience. But it did give me quite a few chuckles along the way.
To help ensure that the kids can enjoy their creepy comics without being kept up all night, artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews have provided what I can only describe as delightful- not really a word that I find myself using often in conversation- illustrations. The style is bright and easy on the eyes, with a manga influence to really make it stand out. Their eye for detail and ability to match Stine’s balance between scary and comical in their illustrations made this a fun read for me. Finally the facial expressions, again with that quirky exaggerated manga spin, emphasized what was going on with the characters in their crazy misadventures. As a whole, Kelly & Nichole’s style worked within the spooky tale as a bit of a release valve for young readers who might otherwise get a little too caught up in the whole people eating monster angle.
Stine is a writer with a very specific set of skills. He knows just how to hit the balance between scary & funny, and how to walk that fine line to produce stories- so many stories- that kids love and parents don’t hate. Both of my kids were crazy about the Goosebumps series of books. My daughter would huddle under the blankets and devour book after book on her own, while her younger brother would plop down, hand me or his mom a book and not let us go until we’d read it to him cover to cover. It was always awesome to get a new R. L. Stine book on the shelf, and it’s great that we’re still getting new stories now in comic book form.
Clocking in at ___ pages, Just Beyond: Welcome to Beast Island may be a little long for bedtime reading, but it was in no way a chore to get through. Parents looking for some good reading material as we come into the home stretch to Halloween could do a lot worse than this one. But if you hear strange growls coming from the kids’ room, think twice before barging in… Kokoro gets hungry and is always looking for a late night snack.
Final Score: 10/13