Camp Midnight by Steven T. Seagle and Jason Katzenstein
My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes
Date Published: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Image Comics
Pages: 248 pages
Synopsis: Ben 10 and Big Hero 6 creator Steven T. Seagle returns to comics with New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein for a new graphic novel! Reluctant Skye is accidentally sent to the wrong summer camp. Not wanting to please her step monster, Skye is dead-set on not fitting in. That won’t be a problem, as everyone at Camp Midnight-with the exception of fellow camper and fast-friend Mia-is a full-fledged monster! The perfect book for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, but wish it had more bowls of gooey eyeballs.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This is a spoiler-free review.
I’ve been in the mood to read some new graphic novels lately, so when I saw this one, I figured I would give it a go—and I am incredibly glad that I did. Camp Midnight is a fast, wacky, and highly enjoyable read for both the young and young at heart. Bizarre creatures and humorous dialogue fill the pages, creating a story about the power of friendship and the importance of acceptance, with a clever supernatural twist. It is truly one of those simple, feel-good novels, perfect if you are in the mood for something light and positive.
The story begins as the protagonist, Skye, is very reluctantly heading to spend the summer with her distant father and obnoxious stepmother while her mother is away. She is not at all excited about the prospect of staying there, but finds out that they have concocted an even worse plan behind her back—summer camp! Wanting to punish her family for this shocking betrayal, she is determined to have as horrible a time as possible. But fate has other plans. Turns out, they have put her on the wrong bus, and Skye is in for an unusual and far more monstrous summer than she originally expected.
I thought the writing itself was fantastic—everything about it was absolutely spot on. The dialogue was often quite hilarious and the humor was right up my alley. It was clever and witty, and had me smiling to myself many times throughout my reading of it. In addition to the humor and silliness, however, there was also a much deeper message underneath it all that I was not expecting to get out of this novel.
The plot deals with some themes that everyone will be able to easily relate to. This is a story that makes you think about what the true definition of a monster really is, and does it in the most literal way possible. As Skye finds out, sometimes humans can be far more monstrous on the inside than those who are on the outside. This less than realistic story focuses on the very real topic of tolerance and acceptance of others based on what’s on the inside, not on outer appearances.
Seagle and Katzenstein have worked together to create a cast of wonderfully quirky and memorable characters. Sassy, sarcastic, and hilarious, Skye makes a solid protagonist. Though certain aspects of all the characters were a bit exaggerated for the purpose of the story, she was exceedingly relatable—we have all been through similar experiences and realizations in some form or another.
Mia is lovely and absolutely adorable, playing an extremely important role in both Skye’s life and in the plot as a whole. The parents and the stepmother are all written to be ridiculously horrible, either in their behavior toward Skye or in terms of taking care of her. After all, they didn’t even notice that she had gotten on the wrong bus for camp. They are all a bit of a caricature, but the over-the-top way they act fits with the atmosphere of the comic. It is supposed to be exaggerated and amusing, and their personalities serve as a means to convey this feeling.
The art in this novel is absolutely phenomenal and works brilliantly well with the text of the story. The design of it is very reminiscent of what I normally think of as classic comic style. It is simple and cartoon-like, very much like sketches, with various marks and patterns used as accent details. Certain features of both the setting and characters are amplified in order to exhibit what Seagle wants the reader to see as most important, furthering that caricature-like feel. This type of drawing matched perfectly with the comedy and quirkiness of the story, while still portraying the creepier, monstrous aspect of the setting and supporting characters.
The multihued color palette varied from vibrant shades to darker or more muted shades, corresponding flawlessly with changes in mood, setting, and time of day. On numerous occasions, Katzenstein juxtaposes the vibrant and muted tones to further bring out the atmosphere of each panel and current emotions of the characters. As a whole, the art was incredibly effective when it came to breathing life into every aspect of the story.
The only real complaint that I had was that I felt the ending came rather abruptly. I would have liked to see a little more regarding how Skye’s experiences at camp changed her ways of thinking about and acting toward others. I would have even liked to see just a tiny bit more of her final days at the camp. Everything finished rather suddenly following the climax, and it felt like I had missed out on some important events in the plot. Though there was an adequate wrap up to the story, it was lacking a bit when it came to tying in the main message.
Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this graphic novel, and I think I would have loved it even more had I been reading it back in elementary or middle school. Camp Midnight was a charming story, brought to life with colorful art and equally colorful characters. Seagle puts a wacky spin on a common theme, conveying the message in a unique and intriguing way. This ended up being a quick, satisfying read that hooked me from page one and kept a smile on my face until the very end.