Stranger Things #4 from Dark Horse Comics hit comic book store shelves this week. It is the final installment of a four-part limited series that tells the story of young Will Byers’ horrific adventures in the upside down from season 1 of the hugely popular Netflix original series.
Having been trapped in that nightmare world for quite a while and relentlessly pursued by the Demogorgon, the effects of this dark realm have starting to take its toll on our hero. Weakened by his ordeal and having issues breathing in that oppressive environment, Will makes his way to the only place he feels safe: his childhood fort in the woods, appropriately named Castle Byers. It is there that he finally finds a moment of respite and is contacted by an apparition of Eleven. She tells him to hold on and to stay strong, for his mother will be there soon to rescue him. To pass the time, and find added strength and comfort, Will sings a familiar song to himself which unfortunately acts as a beacon for the Demogorgon. The monstrous creature bursts into the twisted version of the fortress, capturing Will and bringing him to its lair in the Upside Down version of the Hawkins Public Library. Encased in a sort of dark matter, Will starts to give into the darkness and lose all hope.
Just when it seems that all is lost, his mother Joyce Byers and Sheriff Hopper arrive to rescue him. Will wakes up in a hospital room with his mother and brother at his bedside appearing to him in horrific forms due to effects of him being tainted by the Upside Down. He is later joined by his friends who inform him not to fear, for their new friend has sacrificed herself to vanquish the Demogorgon. The issue and series ends with Will wondering if he will ever be the same again after facing this demon in the upside down.
The writing on this series and this issue is wonderful. Jody Houser does a great job of integrating Will’s story into the events of the first season of the show. One interesting point in particular is the way that Will escapes into a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons world as his wizard character, Will the Wise, to find strength and perseverance when things seem too frightening to handle. This blending of fantasy and reality ties the comic series in with the television show on an even deeper level. The resolution at the end of this issue does feel a bit abrupt, however it is written from Will’s personal perspective, and seeing that he partially lost consciousness after being captured by the Demogorgon, events at the end would have appeared to have happened rather quickly for him. Overall, this is brilliant writing. The story is very exciting, and it gives the reader even more understanding of a character who only appeared briefly in season 1, yet was a mean focal point and integral to the entire story.
Stefano Martino’s artwork on this issue, and series as a whole, has been both beautiful and terrifying. The action sequences as Will is pursued through the Upside Down and tormented by the Demogorgon are particularly menacing and horrific. The look and feel of his images pull the reader right into that world with a constant underlying sense of dread woven throughout every page. The only exception to this are the times when Will is remembering events of the past spending time with his friends in the real world. Those flashback sequences are distinguishable and flow seamlessly throughout the story. Lauren Affe’s use of color greatly accentuates this wonderful artwork even more, adding an extra layer of dread and doom with her use of shadows and dark muted colors.
All in all this is a great companion to the show. It tells the compelling story of what really happened while Will was trapped in there and gives the reader even further insight into the character of Will Byers. I highly recommend this issue and this series to any fans of the television show.
Is it good?
Overall this issue is a great ending to a wonderful series that fills in the gaps and takes the reader even deeper into the dark corners of the upside down. It is an absolute must-have for any fan of Stranger Things.