Cape Grace is one of the most haunted towns in America, what with its records of mysterious disappearances, cult activity, and unnerving spirit sightings, making it the perfect destination for the next episode of Specter Inspectors. Paranormal enthusiast, Noa, her younger sibling, Gus, best friend and secret crush, Astrid, and their camera operator, Ko, journey to the small town to prove that ghosts exist. However, when Astrid suddenly becomes possessed, the gang soon stumble upon forces far beyond their understanding. To save their friend they must uncover the town’s dark history, which holds more sinister secrets than the odd ghost or two. Coming off as a queer Scooby-Doo for a new age, Specter Inspectors delivers an engaging, fast-paced, and, at times, emotionally compelling tale all wrapped up in an eerily atmospheric style that perfectly sets the mood for spooky shenanigans.
Authors Bowen McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto hit all the narrative beats one expects to find in this kind of story: investigating a decrepit, creepy building, ensuing supernatural hijinks, at least one trip to the local library, and ultimately coming toe-to-toe with an otherworldly entity. Despite the typical formula, the writing and characters are what keep the story fresh and interesting. There is never a dull moment, as our inspectors are thrust from one ghoulish encounter to another, while still having more grounded, character-developing moments. When writing a story with an ensemble cast, there is always the risk of alienating and setting aside certain characters, leading to an unbalanced focus. Thankfully, McCurdy and Musto avoid this issue, giving everyone their chance to become endearing and relatable to the readers. The dynamics of the group are expertly in-sync, with Noa as the enthusiastic true believer, Astrid the skeptic, Ko the scaredy-cat, and Gus the sarcastic younger sibling doubling as the voice of reason. These archetypes gel well together, enriching each interaction with personality and occasional humor. There were one or two scenes that got a good snort out of me, mostly due to great comedic timing paired with the wonderfully expressive faces of the characters.
McCurdy also serves as the comic’s artist, utilizing colors that bring out the evocative qualities of the illustrations, especially in the opening establishing panels of Cape Grace, which is awash with varying shades of an ominous green. In the first few pages alone, McCurdy instantly draws readers into the paranormal vibes that constantly linger around the setting, heightened by the appropriately ghastly appearance of the old town hall and the overall feeling of barrenness around the town. Though a few residents appear every now and then, there is an emptiness to Cape Grace with each deserted street and building, depicting the environments as somewhat foreboding and isolating. McCurdy excels at giving Cape Grace that lovely “small town spooky” aesthetic, though is also capable of creating beautiful scenes, like a firefly-lit night by a lake covered in deep blues, somehow seeming so far away from the constantly emerald lit town, but still a part of it. The range of colors, expressions, and designs both in setting and characters truly elevate the effectiveness of the emotional impact of the story, whether when it is trying to send a shiver down our spines or endearing us to a romance that lies just beneath the horror.
One blurb on the back of the comic states that you will “show up for the ghosts, stay for the queer romance” and I could not say it any better myself. Noa and Astrid’s relationship, giving sapphic romance representation, blossoms so wonderfully on the page, starting from awkward attempts at flirting to genuine displays of admiration, affection, and concern for the others’ wellbeing. I am always so excited to see more LGBTQ+ relationships in horror media and it is wonderful to see that this representation is being more normalized across multiple genres. Other representation includes Gus, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.
Marketed as a horror title, Specter Inspectors skews towards the lighter side of the genre, without depending on blood or gore for its few scares. This makes it ideal for those that enjoy paranormal stories that are short on true terror, but compensate it with likable main characters, elements of mystery, and an unearthly ambiance. There is a touch of unsettling imagery towards the end and talk of possessions and cult behavior throughout, so it would be best for ages 13 and up. Those that are looking to acquire stories with positive LGBTQ+ representation across various genres, as well as add to a collection that has a high circulation of paranormal/horror materials, should consider purchasing this title.
By Bowen McCurdy, Kaitlyn Musto
Art by Bowen McCurdy
BOOM! Box, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Queer
Character Representation: Queer, Nonbinary