By Sam King
I still own several dozen Goosebumps books. Occasionally on Halloween, I watch old episodes of the show. Seeing a comic with fan favorite Slappy got me real excited, but this one is written by a different person than normal and it shows. The story really feels like it is missing the R.L. Stone touch. The creep levels are lacking and the characters really aren’t that interesting.
Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight is a trade collecting issues #1-3 of the series of the same name. A pair of sisters are staying with their grandma during summer time and waiting for their moms to pick them up. The girls are bored, particularly the eldest sister. They're in town and come across a bookstore selling horror books and the young, asthmatic sister wants to check for a book she didn’t finish, called Don’t Go in the Basement. I'm going to assume that this could be an Easter egg for the second original Goosebumps book Stay Out of the Basement, which was much more entertaining. The grandma doesn't stop, so the younger sister begs her older sister to take her back into town once their grandma falls asleep back at the house. They walk the long way back to the bookstore at night and happen into Horrorland, an amusement park run by Slappy, through a doorway in the bookstore. They meet a pink furry monster they call Irk, who isn't as scary as the rest and that they end up befriending as they try to find out how to get home.
Overall the story is pretty average and the main characters are generic. The older sister, Mia, has a broken leg and is supposed to be away at camp with her sports team. The younger sister, Ginny, is, as mentioned, extremely asthmatic. It's a story of sisters who can irritate each other and don't always see eye to eye, but try to get home and save each other as needed. I didn't care if they got home to be fully honest and there was nothing that made me want to cheer for them. Maybe I'm supposed to feel for them since they each have blatant handicaps that prevent them from being as quick as they could be without their issues, but that doesn't mean that they're automatically endearing. Irk is the standard unexpected companion; a monster that isn't as monstrous as the rest because the youngest child decides that they need to be friends. Irk is one of the more interesting characters but not by much. Character wise this story just isn't strong enough and the scares aren't to the level they need to be. There are some pretty creepy Goosebumps books and this one just didn't hit the right notes for me. Creepy place with books or a book place that serves as a portal of some kind? Seen it. Creepy amusement park? Seen it done better. Slappy, evil puppet mastermind? He was better in the original books.
Goosebumps fans know that each Goosebumps book tends to end with a cliffhanger or one last creepy note. This one tried, but it just didn't hit the mark. You might say, "Sam, those books came out years ago, they may not be as good now as you think". That could be true except for the fact that, odd as it may be to some people, I still read kids books on a regular basis (having a little sister myself) and enjoyed a Goosebumps book within the past six months. It was awesome. This comic arc wasn't. It didn't hit the right notes and just felt underwhelming. One scene was kind of creepy, involving the grandma, but that was about it.
Overall, this series was lackluster. I wanted more and there wasn't enough horror. Slappy wasn't his glorious creepy self and the author just didn't seem to have the guts to give kids the horror they deserve and probably even crave. They're kids, not babies, it's okay to creep them out. As a child, I could've read this at night and not been the least bit affected, which really tells you everything. Reading Goosebumps at night should increase fear levels. I read it at night and was positively bored, so I can only imagine the disappointment young me would've experienced. Some kids might like it, but I would just suggest buying an actual Horrorland series book by R. L. Stine. Leave the work to the expert.
Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight