As the world of everyone’s favourite nostalgia-baiting 80s monster-mash continues to expand, with planned video games and prequel novels and the inevitable third season on Netflix, it’s really no surprise that a comic book series is slated for release in September. Coming courtesy of Dark Horse, with a story by comics veteran Jody Houser, the upcoming series will, apparently, detail just what happened to Will Byers when he nipped off for a while during the first season of Stranger Things. And to support Stranger Things #1, Dark Horse have supplied a Stranger Things ashcan to give eager readers a taste of just how many Dungeons & Dragons references can be crammed into a single issue.
It’s pointless reviewing such a thing, in the traditional sense, as there isn’t enough meat on the bones of the Stranger Things ashcan to pass judgement one way or the other. But it gives a hopeful glimmer of how well these characters and this setting might translate to the page, even if framing Will’s initial descent into the Upside-Down as a parallel to his most recent Dungeons & Dragons campaign is a bit predictable.
It’s true to the show, though, as is the dreary colour palette, so it’s just as well that the table top game’s fantastical elements allow for a colourful panel. And I like the writing, which capably brings to mind the logic of a youngster, in an unfamiliar place, turning to what they know and understand for support. In the Stranger Things ashcan, Will flashes back to his own lectures on how a party functions in the game: “The only way you survive and level up is together.” But it’s contrasted against his gradual realisation that he is, suddenly, completely alone. He doesn’t have his party to rely on.
The Stranger Things ashcan will be available at the Dark Horse booth at this week’s San Diego Comic-Con, but you can get it for free right now on Dark Horse Digital. I can’t say it’ll stave off the anticipation until the series premieres on September 26, but at the very least it might give you a sense of what Will’s journey into the Upside-Down might be like.