cover image The Crossroads at Midnight

The Crossroads at Midnight

Abby Howard. Iron Circus, $18 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9458-2068-7

Howard (The Last Halloween: Children) proves herself an expert in the horror genre and the comics format with five suspenseful, excellently executed short stories—diverse in cast, setting, and horrific monsters—based in individual loneliness and lack. In “The Boy from the Sea,” Nia, a young girl, plays alone while her older sister hangs out with other kids on the beach, perking up when an uncanny, ocean-dwelling boy attempts to befriend her. In “The Girl in the Fields,” queer teen Frankie seeks comfort from her parents’ judgment via a neighbor who’s visible only as an eye viewed through a fence board’s knot. “Mattress, Used” fleshes out the experiences of a college student for whom an old stained mattress represents a hoped-for night’s rest, and two other stories follow characters longing for unlikely creatures’ companionship. Centering female-presenting protagonists of varying ages, ethnicities, and body types, Howard’s black-and-white art style, brilliantly lit and textured with hatching, creates chilling atmospheres. Each story comes to life as Howard draws out thrilling climaxes with agonizingly long sequences that frequently linger on grotesque visuals. Wonderfully terrifying. Ages 13–up. [em](Feb.) [/em]