For folks that didn’t know if “Trick r Treat” would end up as a one and done horror classic, or end up becoming a full fledged dynasty, creator Michael Dougherty is nice enough to team up with Legendary Pictures to deliver “Days of the Dead.” Michael Dougherty pens the introduction to “Days of the Dead,” where still uncertain if a sequel would ever blossom back in 2015, helped build this anthology to keep Sam alive in our hearts. “Days of the Dead” is a mid-quel ripped directly out of the “Trick r Treat” universe, the graphic novel unfolds five stories involving Halloween and Autumn that tries to recapture the spirit of the original film. With the mid-quel being a graphic novel, Dougherty side steps the interconnected story format from the film and bonds the tales mainly through our beloved Sam.
This isn’t a graphic novel that explains who or what Sam is, thankfully. Dougherty and co. keep Sam primarily mysterious and enigmatic. Maybe he’s a spirit, maybe he’s an Autumnal God, maybe he’s the manifestation of Halloween, we never really find out. All we do get to understand is that Sam is embedded in the holiday whether we know it or not. “Seed” from artist Fiona Staples and writer Jose Villarrubia is a nice dip in to the romance pool about a young man named Thomas who falls in love with Bridig, a woman suspected of being a witch. Doomed to be executed, Bridig falls for Thomas, and the two try their damndest to preserve their love. Sam is always in the background in this opening segment, as the story creatively injects romanticism to the idea of the pumpkin. “Corn Maiden” from Stephen Byrne is a great story about a group of pioneers looking to build a railroad right through a very defiant Native American village.
When the man in charge realizes his head strong daughter has been accepted in to the tribe, he does whatever it takes to ensure the plans for the railroad go ahead. But when she’s introduced to the ancient and wrathful Autumn spirit, as guided by Sam, she unleashes Halloween hell. This is a very striking and magical short with excellent art and a damn good final scene; as well there are some fun Easter Eggs introduced, including Sam’s iconic jagged lollipop. “Echoes” from Stuart Sayger and Guy Major is the weakest of the short stories, as it takes the path of a Neo-Noir, and sets the tale in 1950’s Los Angeles during Halloween. P.I. Jake Perkins is still grieving the death of his wife and son, and is hired to find a missing young girl who is suspected of hanging around witches. Being given an Owl pendant by the victim‘s desperate sister, Jake is sucked in to a bigger plot involving a serial killer, political corruption, and a journey in to his own personal hell. It’s a fairly boring and forgettable segment I could have done without.
Finally, “Monster Mash” is the best of the bunch, and it’s not hard to figure out why it dons the cover of the graphic novel. With excellent art by Zid and Riccardo Rullo, we meet James and Rory, two friends who go trick or treating for one last time. After causing a prank, they’re chastised by their small town led by a local priest, who happens to be the abusive father of young Rory. After Rory defies his father, the town is attacked by a horde of monsters, and the boys survive by putting on their masks fooling the predators. They’re accidentally pulled in to the Halloween dimension as they help stage a siege on the small town led by Sam, murdering people and collecting candy.
But as Rory and James begin taking on the literal form of the monsters they’re masquerading as, they have to figure out if they want to celebrate Halloween forever or accept growing up and moving on. The story is shockingly sweet, with a bittersweet theme of growing up and getting rid of childhood traditions. Furthermore, “Monster Mash” gives Sam even more sentience, as he’s literally the ring leader in the violent Halloween siege on the town. All in all, “Days of the Dead” is a mixed bag, but a very entertaining and ambitious Halloween anthology. Is it as good as the original movie? No. Is it a worthy companion to the lore Dougherty creates? I’d recommend it. If I wanted the whole “Trick r Treat” experience, I’d gladly buy this alongside the movie.