Something about the late summer/early autumn months makes me crave spooky stories. There’s nothing better than curling up and reading a scary story or watching a scary movie on an early autumn afternoon. It’s a nostalgic feeling for me and I am constantly on the lookout for new and unique spooky stories to read. So, naturally, I adored Abby Howard’s The Crossroads at Midnight, a graphic novel collecting five short stories. Feeling both classic and contemporary, it’s the perfect fix for horror-lovers looking for something new to sink their teeth into. Plus, the artwork is gorgeous. (5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own.)
The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard
An old woman living alone on the edge of a bog gets an unexpected — and unsettling — visitor, throwing her quiet life into a long-buried mystery. An isolated backwoods family stumbles into good fortune for a time with a monstrous discovery in the lake behind their house, but that time is running short. And a misfit little girl, struggling to make friends, meets an understanding soul one day at the beach: but why will he only play with her alone at night? All these lonely souls — and more — have reached out into the darkness, not knowing what they might find.
Around the dark edges of reality lurk unknown beings with unknowable intentions — ordinary objects can become cursed possessions, entities who seem like friends can become monstrous, and those who seem monstrous can become the truest companions. In this collection of evocative, unnerving slice-of-life horror, five stories explore what happens when one is desperate enough to seek solace in the unnatural, and what might be waiting for us at the Crossroads at Midnight.
Each story in The Crossroads at Midnight is a simple affair. We focus on individual people as they are thrust into supernatural situations designed to play on their hopes and fears. They’re the kinds of stories you might expect to hear around a campfire – simplistic, yet effective. Grounding each story in the experiences of well-defined, fully realize characters gives each story a personal touch. None of the supernatural elements are the point of any story, which makes them scarier. Howard expertly takes us into the heads of these characters, so we feel what they feel. The monsters are well developed and fully realized, each of them being satisfyingly scary but also effective within the narratives of each character in each of their respective stories.
There’s a story for every horror fan here. There are creepy stories, monster stories, and even stories with social commentary. But every story is fed through the prisms of these characters. The collection feels like a mixture between The Twilight Zone and a bunch of campfire stories. And I mean this in the best way possible. I loved every story in this collection. I was scared of times, I laughed at times, but most of all, I was moved. These stories are absolutely fantastic in every way and they do exactly what a good spooky story should do: they give you something to think about and they give you something to worry about.
Equally fantastic is Howard’s artwork. She does this neat thing where each story has its own distinct feeling, with no two stories looking the same, while still ensuring the book’s artwork retains a core style, making each tale feel part of the same tapestry. Howard’s artwork is presented in black-and-white, which only adds to the spook factor of these tales. Howard is very deliberate with what she shows. Her monsters are creative and well-designed but, rightfully so, are often kept in the shadows. What’s unseen is always scarier than what’s seen, and Howard uses this to her advantage. Instead, she focuses on how her characters react to the supernatural elements in each story. Howard plays with shadows in deeply effective ways, using them as a method to create suspense and heightened tension. Most impressive, though, is her character work. Her characters are so expressive, so fully realized, that they jump off the page. The stories aren’t very long, but Howard ensures you immediately connect with the characters in each story. Without this connection, the horror would fall flat. On the whole, Howard’s artwork is just impressive. It’s beautiful, it’s atmospheric, and it enhances each story.
All in all, I adored The Crossroads at Midnight. I’m a sucker for spooky stories and this graphic novel has five fantastic ones. They are simple, but effective, feeling both classic and deeply current at the same time. The artwork draws you into the world of each tail and thrills it often as it scares. The perfect read for the Halloween season and should delight all fans of horror. There’s a story for everyone here and all of them are just deeply enjoyable.
5 out of 5 wands.