Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp launched just in time for spooky season, bringing new characters to one of the most memorable locations from R. L. Stine's original series: Fever Swamp. One of the most atmospheric and eerie novels of the first Goosebumps run, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, was not only a terrific read for kids, but it also made for one of the best TV show adaptations. Now, it seems that more werewolves are joining in on the swamp party in this comic from IDW, written by Marieke Nijkamp, drawn by Yasmin Florez Montanez, colored by Rebecca Nalty, and lettered by Danny Djeljosevic. The first issue of this series featured some underwhelming creature design but some interesting character beats. Does this second issue keep that quality up?
Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp #2 was a difficult read. As a lifelong fan of both Goosebumps and all-ages comics, it seemed that this comic, with its Lumberjanes-style art and plot harkening back to The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, was made for me. However, this issue's writing made it a frustrating experience for its inconsistency, repetitive dialogue, and pacing. The entire issue is structured as a chase scene, where the characters, in the middle of running from werewolves, stop to have perhaps the most repetitive, pointless, should-have-been-edited-down-to-a-single-panel argument I've read in a published work.
In the middle of running from werewolves, the characters stop when Blake says, "We can't just keep running. We need a plan." (Running, so you don't get devoured is a great plan, I think.) Then, later, when Lily does come up with something of a plan, Blake rebukes her and suggests getting out of the forest.
Then, Blake says, again, while they're in a forest being chased by werewolves, "When we get back, you're going to have to admit to them that they were right. And Cara too. And Eden." to the girl who led her there. Priorities, Blake!
Then, nine pages into the chase… Blake says that she thinks these might not just be big wolves. They're werewolves, she says in a dramatic reveal.
They're wearing pants, Blake. Yes. They're werewolves.
The argument, repeating the same points over and over, goes on for the second half of the issue, offering little character insight, no plot movement, and leaves the characters in a slightly scarier version of the ending of the first issue. After a readable first issue, this one brings that trademark Goosebumps urgency to a screeching halt.
Now, Goosebumps under R. L. Stine's pen was never known as a book with incredible dialogue or especially character-focused stories. What Stine did, though, was create protagonists that were consistent, putting them in simple situations created to mimic a roller coaster. He would thrill the reader with twists and turns, showing them a bit of darkness and then turning on the lights every few chapters when things got too scary. Stine's series thrives to this day for a reason: because of his writing style. To put it lightly, Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp #2 has none of what gives Stine's series such staying power and appeal to young readers.
If future issues can introduce a clearer sense of the threat, a stronger editorial hand in avoiding such intense repetition in the dialogue, and a story that pushes the narrative and characters forward, Goosebumps fans may still be interested in reading what happens next in this new tale of Fever Swamp. As a second issue, though, this does, unfortunately, squander some of the interest built by the well-written, intriguing first issue.