I Luv Halloween (Book)
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Ben Roman
Published by TokyoPop
YAY! It is with a degree of relief that I can report there is a portion of me that is within salvation's reach. The good folks at The 700 Club have a chance of converting me just when I was beginning to be afraid that there was nothing left within me of any "redeeming" quality. <!-- zoom:/img/Reviews/ -->
But I have found out that there is indeed something within me on the side of light, goodness, and moral upstandingness (not really a word, but you get the drift). You see something has finally tripped my barometer of good taste, an internal device that I thought I had burned out a long long time ago. The devilish dudes over at TokyoPop have delivered unto me a tome so very odd, unique, and utterly despicable that I have no other choice than to WARN all of you good Horrorites about it.
I Luv Halloween is about a group of little kids who are all about the tricking and treating beat. These children are permanently clad in grotesque costumes, constantly clutching candy bags, and always poised to pilfer precious presents from the surrounding neighborhood. You would assume this to be a book about the good-natured hijinks kids can play during the nocturne on All Hallow's Eve, right? Well, my friends, you could not be further from the truth...
This book is sick. It is a twisted diatribe on the boredom facing a generation of kids who are so over stimulated with video games, 500 cable channels, the Internet, and the No Child Left Behind Act that they are forced to create acts of unspeakable disgust just because they can. As I felt my inner Alberto Gonzalez welling up, I suddenly realized that I was offended. It was a weird sensation that I had not felt in a while. A smile crossed my face, and it dawned on me that any chance of salvation for myself is truly gone. God help me, I was liking it.
The core group of kids here are Finch, Mr. Kitty, Pig Pig, and Devil Lad. There is a cast of many people that we cross during the book's length, and while they all have a part to play, it is these four boys who are the apex of the shitstorm at work here. Alongside them is Moochie, Finch’s little sister, but I will talk more on Moochie later. First let me detail the boys:
Finch wears a skull mask. His house has two corpses inside, sitting at the dinner table in front of a cake and wine glasses. Are these his parents? Finch does not seem to take any real notice of them, other than to remark on their supposed return from the grave at some point.
Mr. Kitty wears a ratty old cat costume with a blazing zipper down the front. He is full of sarcasm and prepubescent hormones. His fixation on the mammary glands of the human female make it well known what kind of milk this cat is hungry for.
Pig Pig wears a giant pig mask. There is a subtle innocence to him, but whether this is just the wide-eyed influence of the look of the mask or his constant naiveté concerning most of the issues brought up is a hard call to make. He is not above helping the other boys in their endeavors; he just has more questions about all of it as they go.
Finally, Devil Lad is the enigma of the group. Apparently, he is only seen when Halloween comes around, so it is suspected that he my possibly be a "Halloween Poacher": a kid who goes to other neighborhoods to scoop up a better selection of treats than what may be offered on his own home turf. Devil Lad’s ever-smiling Satan mask allow him to be a constant reminder that what is transpiring is supposed to be funny.
Supposed to be.
Volume One details the boys as they set out to go around trying to collect candy. The first stop is a dreaded "apple house," which marks the night’s start badly. Then all subsequent homes are only giving out ChocoWillies, some sort of alternative treat that is not the pure cocoa bean spawned succulents that they had been hoping for. So in order to set the mojo of the evening right, the group concocts a plan to get revenge on the house that set the evening off at a bad start: The Apple House.
They then take the aforementioned apple, stuff it with razor blades, and proceed to feed it to…
Wait a minute!
Kids. Apples. RAZOR BLADES! Oh my goodness! I could not believe my eyes as it all unfolded, but then it got worse. The first issue of I Luv Halloween devolves into murder, corpse mutilation, rampant breast ogling, and a murderous revenge plot featuring a kid with a handgun. You know how they say only a small fraction of an iceberg can be seen above water and that most of it is hidden beneath the waves? Well, treat my all too brief synopsis the same way. A lot happens, too much to go into and far too wicked to want to spoil in this review.
The sick mind behind this is writer Keith Giffen. The story unfolds very subtly within the simple bantering among the boys. This is where the genius of the book lies. As everyday as some of the conversation is, the acts during it are as audacious as you will see. Then again, there are times when the subject discussed is appalling and the surrounding action is mundane. There is never a second in I Luv Halloween where Mr. Giffen is not trying to offend someone. It works, in a twisted taboo smashing way, and you end up turning each and every page wondering, maybe even dreading, where this is going to take you next.
Drawing this world is the able hand of Benjamin Roman. His artistic style fits the story like a double extra large condom on John Holmes, making I Luv Halloween a study in the grotesque. Each character has his own caricature that makes him come alive, and adding to the difficulty of the task is the fact that the main characters have masks on the whole time. There is little room for emoting with the faces. Roman uses very subtle cues, instead of loud glaring manga ones, to let you know what lies beneath each motionless portrait. Sometimes the blankness of the masks adds a level of detachment that flavors a scene with different humor than what it could have gone for. There are no cheap laughs here.
Take Moochie for instance. Finch’s little sister is a bug-eyed menace, a disturbed little girl who is dressed as the tooth fairy. She should be adorable, but when you first see her, you just know something is not right. Her eyes escape her head in a painful manner. They are also set too far apart. Her face is round, and she has a gap between her front teeth. There is a lot of space in her face, and as you learn more about how she functions, you begin to worry about what is going on in all that space in her head. Moochie does some things that had my jaw on the floor. I was shocked, offended, and consistently compelled to keep reading. I have to give it to Giffen and Roman, they have made a world where the adolescent mischief of Dennis the Menace is turned on its ear, thrown in a blender, and raped by the Marquis de Sade.
Volume One comes to a close as we seem to bid a permanent adieu to a few of the cast. Yet, in this post "South Park" world we are forced to accept them back and ready to play in Volume Two. The world of I Luv Halloween has a set of rules: There are no rules. Anything goes, and thankfully in the second installment we get to see this taken to gleeful heights.
Pig Pig dies in the first pages of the second installment. His broken mask lies bloody on the ground, the work of zombies that have overrun the town and serve as the focal point and plot device for this book. Where the first entry may have suffered from a lack of focus, the second book has one stumbling across each page. Roman’s sketches shine here as each undead entity gives him the chance to dabble in horrors too awful to describe. We go from the sheer grotesque to the simply gross. The parade of rotten flesh is a gruesome treat for the eyes.
Ahhh, but the story does not falter either. We get, in true sequel style, a bigger cast with the logical higher body count. More trick or treaters are introduced, including Hully Gully, a kid with as much of a need for candy as he has an epilepsy problem. Yes, you read that right, epilepsy. I Luv Halloween goes there and so many other places it makes my head hurt.
I liked Volume Two better, only for the richness of the artwork and the sickness of the story. Rotting corpses and kids with no qualms about anything make for a fun time. Plus, after seeing how the group deals with as mundane a thing as a normal Halloween (wow, did I really just say that?), I was excited for a setup in which they got to play in a world just brimming with death and depravity.
So there you have it. The little book that could. Shocking? Maybe to some? Surprising? Yes, if you go into it assuming nothing. Fun? Entirely.
Discuss I Luv Halloween in our forums!