Back when I was still reviewing video games, I loved Costume Quest. In fact, it was one of my favorite games of 2010. So of course I preordered Costume Quest 2 AND the accompanying graphic novel, Invasion of the Candy Snatchers because I expected them to be equally as awesome. Well, I received the video game first and like a lot of gamers I was really disappointed with how bad Costume Quest 2 has been. With severe control lag that makes the game unplayable for a lot of people (Still not fixed after two patches, with a third by the time this is published), the need to backtrack and heal after ever battle and a lot of the game’s charm ripped out, it’s gotten some very deserved hate from PC gamers, especially in the Steam community. Between that and the Broken Age debacle, I’ve gone from being a big champion of Double Fine Productions to extremely wary of anything they release. However a graphical novel is a VERY different beast from a video game so I tried not to let my disappointment in Costume Quest 2 bleed over into my review of the comic. Then I received it.
With Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers, all pre-orders were supposed to get a cute little pre-order bonus. A tote bag and such. The company responsible for sending out the books, Fangamer.net…forgot to do this for everyone and so they had to ship them separately. As of the writing of this review, mine has not arrived. At least they caught their mistake, but it definitely was a costly mistake for them. Then however was the book itself. It was mailed into two different envelopes. The first was one too small and thin for the book to be mailed in, meaning than whoever put it in there had to shove it in and thus crush/bend the hardcover to make it fit, damaging it from the get go. Then it was place in an even larger envelope that was both thin and without protection, ensuring the covering corners would be crushed no matter how delicate the US Postal Service was (ha ha ha). So although I was excited to get Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers, I was really disappointed with how haphazardly Fangamer.net mailed this thing and have asked for a refund or a replacement. I haven’t heard back yet though. So my advice is that you should try to find a way to get this from someone other than Fangamer.net. Amazon.com is your best bet as you can get it for $18.74 or as low as $9.99 if you want the Kindle version.
(Update: Fangamer got back to me and refunded my purchase, no questions asked. They were very friendly and polite. I even got to keep my mangled copy instead of having to send it back. So a big yay for Fangamer’s customer service but a boo-urns for their shipping department.)
The good news is that, aside from the condition he comic arrived in, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is pretty good. The book is quite oversized for a graphic novel. It’s about 50% wider and taller than a normal graphic novel and even bigger than most hardcover collector comic collections. I’ve included a picture of Invasion of the Candy Snatchers with one of each as a reference point to the sheer size of this thing. It’s pretty impressive and helps to explain why it costs so much with only a fifty page count. If this was sized like a normal graphic novel, it would be about 75-100 pages. At least that’s my guess. As such, the price really makes sense in the scheme of things and it’s a good deal for the dollar amount.
Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is a lot of fun to read too. You don’t need to have played the first Costume Quest video game to enjoy or understand it, but those that have completed the game will get more out of it due to some vague references and some cameos by two of the four playable characters in the game. The comic actually tells the story of three Repugnians (Repugnia is the world the Grubbins/antagonists from Costume Quest come from. Although goblinoid in appearance, the residents of Repugnia are a lot like human beings in personality and demeanor. Well, except for the candy shortage. Repugnians really love their candy. It’s a wonder they aren’t all diabetic and/or obese.
The main character in Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is a young boy named Klem. He is in love with the idea of Earth’s Halloween and just wants to be liked by the other students. Unfortunately, he’s considered a bit of a dork and is ignored, teased and picked out. His best friend is Sellie who sticks with Klem despite his flights of fancy and crazy schemes and despite putting off cynical airs, is a true friend as well as the sole voice of sanity in the comic. The pair is rounded out by Brolo, who is the token fat and dumb comic relief character. He eats rocks and bumbles through life, albeit in a good natured fashion.
The crux of the story occurs when Klem tries to get himself invited to the “cool kids” party only to be rebuffed for being lame. In response, Klem reacts in true 80s sitcom fashion by telling a lie to make himself seem cooler to others. In this case he makes up a story about having a huge stash of candy to distribute amongst his friends. The leader of the cool kids, Ophirion, calls his bluff and says Klem and his pals can go, but if they show up without the candy…they’re in for a world of pain. To save what little reputation he has and his butt from a beatdown, Klem makes a very risky choice of journeying to the human world of Earth to gather candy. Of course it’s Halloween so they’ll just be mistaken for kids with really good costumes, right? RIGHT?
What follows is a story that at its core is about friendship. Klem learns the value of his true friends and standing by them instead of sucking up to people who will only pretend to like you if you give them something. At the beginning of the story, all Klem wants is to be cool and at the end, he realizes all he needs are those few true friends that he already had and he eventually decides the cool kids are anything but and rejects them. Of course, a lot happens in between, such as one of the triad getting lost amongst the human world, an encounter with two of the protagonists from the first Costume Quest video game, discovering that bullies on Earth and Repugnia are pretty similar and some fun comedy bits along the way. Invasion of the Candy Snatchers ends up being a story that you will enjoy, regardless of what age you are. Young kids or those unfamiliar with Costume Quest will simply enjoy the story for what it is while fans of the video game will appreciate this new added layer to the brand and delight in this look at things from the Repugnian point of view. The story is just good natured all-ages fun and I heartily recommend it. When Costume Quest 2 really let me down, Invasion of the Candy Snatchers reminded me why I loved the first Costume Quest in the first place.
I should also talk a little bit about the art. The entire comic was written and drawn by Zac Gorman, who you might know from the webcomic Magical Game Time. I’d never heard of it, but I enjoyed Invasion of the Candy Snatchers so much, I’ve added it to my list of webcomics to read the archive of. The art of the comic has a very Adventure Time feel to it, while also staying true to the original character designs of the video game. The comic is as much fun to look at as it is to read and the fact that Invasion of the Candy Snatchers was a one man show is all the more impressive.
The comic ends with a two page afterword by Tasha Sounart, who is the original creator of Costume Quest. It’s a cute little look at how the game came to be. Overall, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers was pretty terrific and I can heartily recommend it to not just fans of the video game franchise, but to anyone who likes a good all-ages comic tale or Halloween fantasy in general. It’s well worth the cover price – just make sure to buy it from someplace that actually knows how to package their books properly.