One of the great things about living in Richmond, VA is how close we are to everything. Two hours one direction and you reach the Ocean. Two hours another and you reach the Mountains. You can go to Washington DC in about the same amount of time, barring traffic. Also, if you’re into Amusement Parks, King’s Dominion is only a 30 minute drive. I say this because every Halloween, King’s Dominion does what they call Halloween Haunt. It is their month long theme park conversion to a huge Haunted House where multiple rooms are setup for one purpose: to scare the crap out of their guests.

And people love it. But what if, the monsters, zombies, killer clowns, and what have you were not park employees. They were real! That is the premise Action Lab Studios new book Midnight Massacre by John and Ben Matsuya presents…and it is a lot of fun. In a bloody, kill everyone type of way.

Midnight Massacre

Calico Entertainment Park has been doing their Halloween Midnight Massacre event for 27 years. As per usual, they plan for their 28th Annual event to be their best and more profitable one yet. Of course, there are always issues that need to be worked through every year. One of them is the proclivity of their “ghostly” employees to get beat up by over-reactive guests. While this is a common occurrence in many such types of events, usually the warning that if “you don’t touch the monsters, they will not touch you” is sufficient.

Monster Accident Policy

However, as they prepare for their annual scare-a-thon, they are suffering a number of monster assaults in their dry-runs. Or to be more accurate, their monsters are getting the crap kicked out of them by over-zealous boyfriends and girlfriends. Naturally, the park executives are aware of this trend and are looking for ways to minimize these occurrences…or at least their liability for them. “Occupational Hazzard” is the company term. What they need is a way to scare their guests, without needing to put park personnel in harms way.

MacPenguin

Like most theme parks, the life’s blood of their employee pool are youngsters. Late teens wanting to earn some money for college or perhaps a car. Amy is such an individual. She has been working for the park for the last three years, which is unusual. Most kids only last a couple of summers until they move on. So, as a third year, Amy is pretty much a veteran. And all three years she has worked in games. Specifically, MacPenguin. It is your basic throw balls at a penguin on a shelf, knock it off and win a prize. But for some reason, it is very difficult to do so. Most players feel the game is rigged. Amy constantly informs them that it is NOT rigged, it is difficult…and you need to know the secret.

Own Personal Hell

After three years, Amy knows the secret, but she cannot reveal it. What ISN’T a secret is that Calico was NOT her dream job. Amy had dreams of being a Rock Star. She played guitar and wrote her own songs. It is her passion. However, when her last band broke up, she did too. At least with the idea of being a musician. Now, it’s “Knock down a Penguin, Win a Prize!” It’s her “Own Personal Hell!”

The Bowels of Hell

Speaking of Hell…The execs are meeting to try to decide what they can do to keep Midnight Massacre profitable without exposing themselves to possible law suits. Enter Tyrus O’Bannon: Adventurer, Practitioner of the Shamanic Arts, and Resident Bullshit Artist. It is his contention that if they simply do what he says, they can eliminate their liabilities by firing their “scare” staff and using his method. A procedure which involves something about “opening a portal straight to the bowels of hell.” Oh, is THAT all. Where do they sign?!

Monsters Unleashed

Initially, it seems to be working. Their new found monsters are particularly scary and so far so good. It’s a real shame that the former park employees “got the axe” so to speak. But these “new guys” are awesome. At least until an unfortunate mistake by a park employee whose name rhymes with… oh the hell with it, can’t think of one…it was AMY. She accidentally cuts their leash. Now they are on the loose and butchering unwitting customers. Oops!

From there, it is the job of Amy, and Park exec Everett to try to set things right. And if they could avoid getting killed in the process, that would be a win, win! Before it’s all said and done, it involves danger, wild rides and playing the ultimate game where the stakes are life itself. Such is the Midnight Massacre.

Thoughts

This is really a cleverly done story. Those who have worked for such amusements parks will relate to the  environment. The friendly rivalry between game and ride staffs. The never ending musical loop at the park. The complaints about the company “uniform” and of course, the interaction between host and customers. The Matsuya brothers understand their setting well.

What they also do is introduce a fun twist into the “normal” Halloween event that many parks do yearly. Starting with the beat downs the park monsters are subject to. I always felt kind of sorry for them. I hope they get a boost in pay to compensate for the danger they expose themselves to….either that or a self-defense class.

One of the things that the Matsuya brother’s do to great effect is not take themselves or the story too seriously. This is reflected in the dialogue. Lines like Tyrus O’Bannon in answering who he is: “I’ve been known by many names. The Inuit called me Intakpua. The Ancient Tree of the Amazon referred to me as The White Plague. My Father called me the Great Diappointment.” At least the man is self-aware.

There are even sight gags like when a Park Employee tells the crowd trying to escape the Monsters running Amok not to cut. Right before he gets “cut” into pieces by “Edward Chainsaw Hands.” All the while Amy’s friend Corey is staring all dreamy eyed at Edward proclaiming he is just misunderstood. Good stuff, John and Ben. Good stuff.

Artwork

Co-Writer Ben Matsuya is pulling double duty as artist and his style is quite unique with an animated feel to it. It is really quite appealing. And when combined with his color work and lettering, it makes for a entertaining book with a touch of a late night creature feature.

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Midnight Massacre is a vibrant scare fest with a sense of fun. That in itself make it worthy to check out. Action Lab Studio Midnight Masacre releases June 23rd.

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