STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 is a solid prequel to the STRANGER THINGS mythos. It retains the sci-fi horror feel of the TV show. In addition, the titular character, Six, is a well-written lead with a set of mysteries that haunt her. That alone makes it worth checking out. Plus this comic respects readers' time and moves at a good pace even as it jumps back and forth in time.
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STRANGER THINGS fans who are hungry for something to tide them over have a new series to look forward to: a prequel comic. Set in the late seventies, STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 follows Francine — or subject Six as she goes by. Haunted by visions of a monster, Six joins the Hawkins Lab under the care of Dr. Brenner. Who is Six, and what other subjects live in the Hawkins Lab? These are just a few of the questions that writer Jody Houser, penciler Edgar Salazar, and inker Keith Champagne look to answer. Rounding off the creative team is colorist Marissa Louise who brings the feel of the late 1970s to life, and Nate Piekos of Blambot, who letters the series. By and large Houser and company deliver a fast-paced comic that explores Six’s past and present.

People Here Call Me Six

Immediately, STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 wastes no time introducing us to the titular character. First, it’s 1970 and an unknown creature haunts the young Francine. Then, the story jumps to 1979 where we meet a teenage Francine in the Hawkins Lab as subject Six. There we meet Dr. Brenner as he tests Francine’s abilities. So far, Six’s ability seems to be that she can the predict the future. For instance, Six’s parents use her abilities to help them get a house. But Six’s ability is not always accurate, which frustrates Six’s parents. We’re only given a few hints of her abilities but I find myself intrigued to learn more in future issues.

Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

This first issue does a good job establishing Six’s world and her supporting cast. In addition to her parents, Six meets a cast of teenagers who are like her. Namely Rick, Six’s neighbor, plays a key role in the story as both a friend and a love interest. Tonally, I think STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 feels serious in nature given the role that the Hawkins Lab plays in the series. One of the questions this issue raises is if the Hawkins Lab is a safe haven or if the teenagers better off living with their parents. The jury is out, but the Hawkins Lab feels like a creepy version of Xavier’s School of the Gifted.

Prequel Comic Means New and Familiar Characters

In addition to Rick, STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 introduces us to a pair of twins, subjects Nine and Ninety-Five. Although it’s not clear what their abilities are, it seems to have something to do with changing the temperature. But as I said before, most of the characterization focuses on Rick (AKA subject Three) and Six’s relationship. Sure, it can be seen as a disappointment not to introduce more new characters in the first issue, but I think a handful of characters works well for this story. Plus, there’s no doubt that we’ll meet of the other teens in the Hawkins Lab.

That said, Dr. Brenner is just as cold and calculating as he is in the TV series. Indeed, Houser is no stranger to the STRANGER THINGS I.P. as she previously wrote STRANGER THINGS: THE OTHER SIDE. Thus, Houser knows the source material quite well and does the setting justice. My hope is that this series adds a few layers to Dr. Brenner that we didn’t see on the show. Nevertheless, Dr. Brenner is every bit as mysterious as the teenagers’ abilities. We don’t know what Dr. Brenner’s endgame is with the kids but we know it’s for nefarious purposes.

The Art of STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 Handles Time Jumps Well

The artistic team of Salazar and Champagne work well together. Arguably the best thing about STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 is the parallels of past and present panels. In the opening pages of the comic the juxtaposition of child Francine with her eyes open in 1970 to teenage Six in 1979 with closed eyes is well done. Later, another great juxtaposition comes when Dr. Brenner holds a report as he speaks to Six which then mirrors Six’s dad when he holds a lottery ticket in a flashback. Suffice it to say, I think the flashback panels are meaningful to the story because Salazar and Champagne communicate it clearly. Overall, the art works well for its intent and purposes.

Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Interestingly enough, Louise adds solid color with STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1. I enjoy how Louise colors flashback panels in simple but bright colors. Notably, Six stands out with her red hair and red eyebrows. In contrast, Louise colors the Hawkins Lab in dull, drab colors such as grey, green, and blue to suggest how prison-like it is. Because of this choice, panels feel engaging and draw readers into the story. In the end, if done right, simple colors are just as effective as a comic with a wide range of colors so Louise complements Salazar and Champagne well.

Closing Comments on STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1

All in all, STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 is a solid addition to the Duffer Brothers’ hit Netflix series mythos. Is this comic series accessible for someone who’s never seen the series? That can go either way, but I think it’s best appreciated by fans of the TV series. At its core, STRANGER THINGS: SIX #1 is a close look at the Hawkins Lab through the lens of a new character. I think Six is a fascinating character with a set of mysteries that makes it worth checking out.

One Comment

  1. Rion Padraig

    Rion Padraig

    June 2, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Going to have to check this out…


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