The Upturned Stone by Scott Hampton

IMG_2367A year or so back I wanted to read something scary. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers, but let’s be honest, most of his stories are very very long, and at the time there was no way I was going to be able to read one of his novels by the time Halloween rolled around, which was my sole purpose. I wanted to scare myself when the spooky holiday rolled around. So, I thought that there must be some scary graphic novels out there. With a few Google searches I came across this book and was intrigued. I saw that this graphic novel was listed as one of the scariest of all time, so I had to check it out.

Scott Hampton is an artist and comic writer from North Carolina. He has worked on a few different titles such as Batman, Sandman, Black Widow, Hellraiser, and Star Trek. One of Hampton’s most recent works is a book called Simon Dark, which is a character that he created that is set in the same universe as Batman. This series looks really cool and I think I will be checking this out in the near future. He has also drawn for Magic The Gathering the card game. Currently, Hampton has stepped IMG_2368into the film making world and is working on a few short films.

This story opens up a few days before Halloween, when most spooky things are usually taking place. A group of young boys are excited about the upcoming holiday. One of the boy’s mothers’ give her son some money to buy a pumpkin. Upon hearing this one of the friends tells a story about a very large, in fact massive, pumpkin that he saw in the woods. He convinces him to save his money and get the pumpkin from the woods. Reluctantly, the boy agrees. After school the group of friends ventures into the woods to collect the pumpkin. Once on site they realize the pumpkin is growing over top of a grave of a young boy who was murdered in the area years ago. Undeterred the boys still take the pumpkin unafraid of any consequences. What follows is a series of dreams that each boy has, only when they put the dreams together do they make sense creating a horrific murder that took place years ago.

This was an interesting read. I do not read a lot of horror or scary stories, in fact it’s not really my favorite genre by any means. Still IMG_2370though you have to change it up sometimes. With that being said I thought this was an interesting story. I felt it reminded me of the Ray Bradbury cartoon The Halloween Tree. I honestly do not know why I think that, I guess just because both stories happen on Halloween and follow a group of young friends. That is where the similarities stop but for some reason I associate the two with one another.

Now regardless of that there was this slightly sad, somewhat depressing, very real tone that is engrained in the story. Which is an element that really makes the story that much scarier. I have mentioned this a few times before of how artwork can really help set a certain tone of a story and this book does this perfectly. This is something that I think Locke and Key really missed the mark one, but I think the story is awesome. I know the series Locke and Key is extremely popular but I feel the art style really inhibits the tone and somewhat eliminates some of the realness of the story. I know that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think you get the idea.

IMG_2371The story for this book is very good and despite the supernatural element, I still think Hampton put in some very real and deep elements. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this but it certainly quickly grabbed my attention and kept it. The story is really good and I felt this was like something Stephen King would have come up with in one of his novels. There were certainly some King-esque elements in this story, which is why it is really good. Plus I love the vengeance and revenge factor and righting past wrongs that play out in the story.

Another reason this book is so great is because of the artwork. The artwork is stylized in the terms that it is not traditional comic art. With that being said, I think the main reason I am going to classify the art as stylized is because it is all done by watercolor painting. Or at least that is what I think based on my “expert” untrained eye. I cannot rave enough about the artwork, it is really something special. What I think I love most about it is the detail and how the landscapes look with the characters in them. This style works perfectly with the IMG_2372story. It is somewhat spooky, gritty, and has this rustic look that adds the mystique to the story. There are a quite a few pages in this book that could be torn out and hung on the wall and no one would know that it was from a graphic novel. I dare say that the artwork is almost too professional looking for a comic, by that I mean that it is truly superb and looks like it belongs in a gallery somewhere. The colors are wonderful as well that work, again, perfectly with the style and the story. The colors are all Earth tones, nothing overly bright, but they certainly keep the tone of the story very drab, which I assume was the intention. Also, you really get the feel of fall and Halloween while reading. The landscapes are picturesque October and Halloween. The page layouts are above average, but because the artwork is so great that it makes the scenes even better. Also, the scenes are bigger because the book is quite a bit larger than a normal comic. So the scenes are that much bigger and you really get to see the work and the time and effort it must have taken to create each scene. Hampton did a wonderful job on the artwork I cannot say that enough.

IMG_2373I really liked this book even though I am not a huge fan of the horror genre. Although to be fare I do not think this is a “horror” story, I would classify it more of just scary or a very spooky story. Regardless it is pretty cool and my only complaint is that I wish it was longer, I think it is only about 60 pages or so. If you are into spooky and scary stories you will certainly love this one. As for “one of the scariest graphic novels of all time,” I am not sure about that title. It is a great story regardless of how scary you think it is. For that reason alone I recommend checking it out. But beware that this is an older book so you may have some trouble tracking it down. If you find it, it is not overly expensive.

Manik

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