Stuff of Nightmares #1 Review: A Peculiar World Full of Promise

Stuff of Nightmares lives up to its name but not in the ways one might expect, and ultimately that's what won me over. "The Monster Makers," part one by R.L. Stine, A.L. Kaplan, Roman Titov, and Jim Campbell sets the tone brilliantly within its first few pages thanks to its mysterious narrator, and Kaplan and Titov raise the tension with every pane, creating a chilling aura around an unassuming house of mystery. When things actually start to reveal themselves Stine puts his foot on the gas and rides the momentum through to its bloody and compelling first act conclusion, and the answers those future stories hold are compelling enough to keep me hooked. While this genre is a bit hit and miss with me in general, Stuff of Nightmares #1 genuinely immersed me into its unsettling and at times gruesome world, and you can consider me captivated.

Those first few pages can't be praised enough, as they do such a wonderful job of bringing readers into the right headspace for this story, and Kaplan and Titov's work is a lovely compliment to classic tenants of an R.L. Stine adventure. The hints of what is to come are welcome as well, and it's enough to keep you moving even if the sights of intestines are a bit too much for your personal tastes.

Stuff of Nightmares works with established creepy tropes until the main confrontation, where it weaves in psychological elements and a wondrous spiral into chaos that becomes an even more compelling storyline. Frankie's three creators become the focus after a rather grisly sequence, and as lead characters, their unstable relationship is far more captivating and intriguing than the story of the leads who proceeded them, and the promise of the chaos to come is what has me hooked moving forward.

There are still so many questions left to be answered, and if the series can continue to roll them out and build upon the issues between the team in exciting ways, it will deliver on the promise this issue so often holds. If we move back towards the more typical elements of the issue's beginnings, that would hold the story and these characters back from what they could ultimately be.

And that leaves us Frankie, who quickly makes a big impression despite his small stature, and the door is wide open on what his story could end up being as we move forward. The heartstrings are already pulled even in his brief appearances in the book's first issue, and the character has the real potential to end up being the most important and meaningful part of this series.

Stuff of Nightmares pulls you in further with its unique mix of immense shadow and vibrant splashes of color. While the blood flows in that familiar red and the yellows and blues cast a foreboding glow to everything, other pages help the book pop with swaths of gorgeous pinks, purples, greens, and oranges, and I'd love to see more of that in future issues, though even here it helps break up the more muted aesthetic towards the middle of the issue.

Stuff of Nightmares #1 brings traditional elements of horror and R.L. Stine stories to the forefront while also finding its own unique sense of style and personality. It's a brutal place to be at times, but it finds a healthy balance of humor and intrigue to keep you from being overwhelmed by the death and misfortune found along the way. I wasn't expecting to be so captivated by Stuff of Nightmares, but I certainly was, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this particular journey goes next.

Published by Boom Studios

Written by R.L. Stine

Art by A.L. Kaplan

Colors by Roman Titov

Letters by Jim Campbell

Cover by Francesco Francavilla