Abby Howard is a cartoonist whose interests include dinosaurs, horror, and Spoons, her beautiful cat. She’s been drawing comics since she first discovered there was such thing, eventually putting them online and gaining a following of over 30,000 fans. Her newest collection is The Crossroads at Midnight, a teen horror collection of five short comic stories.
The first story in this collection, “The Girl in the Fields,” is a tale of religious horror. Frankie is a LGBTQ teen who lives with her hyper-religious and ultra-conservative parents. She makes friends with a girl who lives with the farmer next door. They communicate through a hole in the fence between the two farms. When her parents threaten her with visits to the pastor and “religious therapy,” she tries to run away with her new friend, only to find out that all is not as it seems next door.
The second tale, “Mattress, Used,” is a story about Christina, a young college student who finds a mattress on the side of the road and brings it to her apartment. She is visited by a demon at night and contracts Toxic Epidural Necrolysis from it. This is standard body horror, but done well. Young Adults in college or preparing for college will understand the needs driving Christina throughout this story, and Howard plays off of those desires to create a really grisly story.
The third selection in the collection, “The Boy in from the Sea,” focuses on two sisters on vacation with their father at Myrtle Beach. Nia meets Gregory on the beach while her sister, Ayanna, is off playing with new friends. Nia is dealing with typical sibling rivalry issues, and Gregory seems to help her by offering to play pretend with her and teach her magic. Only, Gregory’s magic is real, and Nia is enchanted. When she prepares to run away into the sea with Gregory, Ayanna is forced with a deadly decision.
The fourth tale, “Our Lake Monster,” is about Ella-Mae and her brother Joshua. There is a monster in the lake on their property. Their father used to take the monster around and display it, making good money for the family. Now he works at the mill and can’t afford to keep food on the table. To make things worse, people from the university are threatening him unless he gives them the monster. When Ella-Mae and Joshua run away to live with the monster, bad things happen. This is a great work of cryptid fiction, enhanced by Howards incredible art skill. We never actually see the whole monster, which adds to the suspense and the thrills of the narrative.
The last story in the book, “Kindred Spirits,” focuses on Norah, a woman who lives by herself in a cabin in the woods. She feeds the feral cats and local wildlife, and is one day greeted by the preserved corpse of a woman from the bog in her back woods. Norah is able to communicate with this woman, and soon they develop a friendship. She investigates this woman’s life, and learns about a haunting story from the 1800s. Ultimately, Norah has to decide whether or not to tell the police, a local historian, or just deal with this stranger on her own.
Abby Howard’s The Crossroads at Midnight is a powerful collection of comic book horror stories. Howards’ artwork is moody and atmospheric, and graphic enough to tell the body horror of the tales, but not too shocking as to disturb or upset any teens reading this collection. The stories have some similar arcs and there are recurring images throughout the tales that almost seem to tie them together, which makes for a cohesive whole. Anyone interested in horror short stories, especially those told in graphic novel format, will enjoy this collection.