This collection of Scary Godmother stories is just like her and her realm: a little sweet, a little sour, and topped off with a whole lot of ghoulish delight. On the Fright Side, where Scary Godmother and her monster friends live, every day is Halloween.
Most of these stories involve the various monsters, but some include little Hannah Marie, a girl who knows the secret to visiting the Fright Side. In the first story, “My Bloody Valentine,” Max and Ruby have had a fight. While Orson and Hannah Marie play together, Scary Godmother dishes out some tea and advice. But Max and Ruby don’t have the usual relationship problems because Max is a master vampire. It takes a few tries, some help from Mister Pettibone the skeleton, and even some input from Hannah Marie and Orson before the vampires resolve their problems in their own, monsterish way.
“The Search for Mister Boogeylegs” is a scary riff on Santa. Of course, in Scary Godmother’s realm, it’s Mister Boogeylegs who gives presents, although not always in the way people expect. “Wild About Harry” is divided into two parts and focuses on Harry the werewolf: fan, moocher, and mama’s boy. The other monsters think they’re helping when they convince Harry’s mother, Irene LeGevaudan the fortuneteller, to kick him out. But Harry definitely doesn’t agree, and it takes a lot of turmoil and arguments before everyone finds a solution they can live with.
“Ghouls Out For Summer” is divided into six parts and has a number of storylines. The major plot is Scary Godmother’s reunion with her witch and fairy godmother classmates at a conference. Unfortunately, she is attacked on the way and trapped in Jack the Giant Killer’s bar. Orson, the vampire boy, has a big problem, too. His father, disappointed with Orson’s modern ways, has sent him to summer school with a terrifying and increasingly dangerous old master vampire. And there’s Hannah Marie, who is stuck at camp with her mean cousin Jimmy and no Scary Godmother to call for help. With a little bumbling help from some friends, and a lot of determination and creativity, Hannah Marie and Orson solve their problems and nobody gets eaten or permanently damaged (well, not much, anyway). They can now help out poor Scary Godmother, who thinks up a fitting revenge for her captor.
The collection ends with a few pages of short stories, a selection of activities, treats, instructions on making comics, and a sketchbook. There are more instructions throughout the collected stories, mostly treat recipes.
Except for the last activity and sketchbook, which are painted in lush color, the art is black and white. Jill Thompson’s signature art, swirling lines, and slashes of black ink, makes Scary Godmother and all her monster friends unforgettable. The intricately detailed drawings make this the type of book to be pored over, as the reader is always finding new details, hidden jokes, and little bits of monster lore hidden in the panels. The art complements the scary-yet-comforting world of Scary Godmother perfectly. Max, Ruby, and Orson are appropriately grim and ghastly vampires, but that doesn’t stop Ruby from getting decked out in some fancy clothes to try a little clubbing, or Orson from testing out a few tricks from the modern world. Hannah Marie, with her big glossy eyes and cutely chubby frame, is a perfectly realistic little girl who’s cheerfully accepting of the dangers and delights of the secret world she’s discovered and not above a little mischief of her own. The endless details of the black and white ink art will keep a reader entranced for a long time as they carefully study the various creatures’ treat recipes and check for clues in Fairy Godmother’s sneaky replacement during the adventures in “Ghouls Out for Summer.”
Although some reviews of the Scary Godmother comics use words like “cute” and “reassuring,” I wouldn’t hand these to a young child who’s sensitive or dealing with fears. While it’s true the monsters are friendly and the general overall premise of the stories is that Scary Godmother helps Hannah Marie when she’s scared, some of the monsters can be quite scary, especially the vampires. Orson tries to drink Hannah Marie’s blood on several occasions and there are times when the various monsters enjoy scaring Hannah Marie and each other just for fun. Some of the humor and plot lines will be best followed by older readers, like Max and Ruby’s relationship issues and Harry’s mom trying to get him to move out and take care of himself. These comics are going to be most appreciated by middle grade kids up through teens who love a good scare and some ghastly and ghoulish monsters with lots of humor and art you can really get your teeth into.