Fred Rogers counseled that, in times of tragedy, one should always look for the helpers as evidence that all goodness is not lost, nor in vain. Drew Edwards’ Solomon Hitch and Dr. Lucy Chaplin are just such heroes. As Halloween Man, Solomon doesn’t patrol the streets fighting crime, journey toward a goal or away from danger, or planet-hop in search of adventure. He’s beholden to no overarching mission, working in service of no agenda more elaborate than fixing the problem at hand. Lucy’s science may be a bit on the mad side, but it’s usually on the problem-solving end of things rather than stirring them up. Trouble seems to find them, delivered either directly by the troublemakers themselves or by those desperate enough to turn to Solar City’s creepiest and brightest for help.
Fairy Tale, the first story in The Halloween Man Christmas Special (available, for now, exclusively on comiXology), finds Halloween Man called to the bedside of the freshly departed Max Kilgour, only to be set on a Christmas Eve quest by St. Nick to retrieve the decedent from an afterlife overseen by King Finvarra of Celtic folklore. Edwards speeds our hero efficiently into action, but not before an exercise in raw emotion that invests reader and protagonist in a situation both have just been introduced to. James Figueiredo’s art ably conveys the very human distress and tension about the deathbed, while not stinting in depicting the supernatural gruesomeness of Solomon’s appearance in otherwise mundane surroundings. In classic Halloween Man fashion, things soon turn whimsical before returning to grimness. The tale rides a series of similarly effective waves of light and dark through to the end, as monsters, gods, and mortals defy and conform to expectations in their turns. The pacing is economical, but affords plenty of space for wordless passages to develop effectively while color bleeds & gutters, split & composite panels, and expressive borders leaven the steady pace and guide the tone of their pages. For all the ways such figures as Father Christmas and Halloween Man might cross paths, this proves to be an intimate and grounded adventure.
Rounding out the second half of Christmas Special, Like a Ghost features Solomon’s better half Lucy (Dr. Chaplin if you’re nasty) fending off an assault that’s not what it seems. Opening in medias res, we don’t get to see the bestial minions burst in to disrupt the solemn proceedings of the Miss Super-Science Christmas Pageant she’s judging, nor exactly when or how her friend Forrest Spextre ends up sheltering under the buffet table with the contestants; rather, we start with our heroine delivering a powerful slobberknocker to one of the intruders. Taking up weapons even more effective than her left cross from the invention portion of the competition, the shapely scientist and her sidekick respectively brawl and cower their way to discovering the mastermind behind the attack. Along the way, Edwards explores how admirers near and far view an independent and capable woman and how the choices she makes in life and love are judged and found wanting at every turn by friend and foe alike. Rather than turn from the path she’s blazing, she serves up rebukes of both the harsh physical variety and more gentle verbal sort as necessary. The style of Kevin Richardson’s art is well suited to the brisk story, evoking the figure and facial style of Golden Age Dick Sprang with touches of the line-heavy horror work of Don Heck. Richardson is joined by artists Riccardo Desini and April Guadiana in a pinup gallery featuring Dr. Chaplin that serves as a tidy bow on this holiday treat.