05th Aug2019

‘Stranger Things: Six #3′ Review (Dark Horse)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jody Houser | Art by Edgar Salazar, Keith Champagne | Published by Dark Horse Comics

st-six-3-cover

It must be said that Dark Horse Comics certainly do have a nose for sniffing out top notch licences. They have pretty much relied on them down the years, putting out some exceptional Aliens, Predator, and Star Wars comics among others. Stranger Things, then, is a no brainer. It is a show born out of a love for pop culture, so is positively brimming with all the elements needed for a good comic book. Rather like the driver of a car, a good writer merely needs to point the book in the right direction and off it goes. Jody Houser is a solid choice as writer for this corner of the Stranger Things books, not least because she has been writing other Stranger Things books, most recently filling in the blanks on Will Byers time in the Upside Down, which we heard a lot about.

So, picking up issue 3 as I am, I am kind of jumping in mid-stream, but as this book is filling in blanks in the history of Six and the whole Hawkins Laboratory storyline that led into Season 1, I’m not too worried. Fans of the show, as am I, will know the back story anyway, and I am more interested in seeing how Jody Houser presents it and what her focus is on. This book is set about 10 years before the events of the first season of the show, and focuses on Francine, a young girl with psychic abilities who is being ‘encouraged’ by the monstrous Dr Brenner to develop them further deep in the recesses of Hawkins Labs. She is just one of the children being kept as prisoners by Brenner and his team, much as Eleven later was herself. And, just as Eleven had the pleasure of the sensory tank in years to come, Francine (Six) now finds herself there.

Francine is clearly a tough cookie. Thrust as she is into the sensory deprivation tank, she does indeed experience a jumble of images and emotions, good and bad. When Brenner excitedly asks her what she saw, she answers deadpan, ‘waffles’. This proves a good point for Houser to delve into just how Brenner and the MKUltra Project operate, as we see how children from broken homes are targeted, made to believe they are being rescued and taken to a safe place by the benevolent, fatherly Brenner. Francine was one of those kids, and we see her past and present as she sits in the Lab canteen with the other ‘rescued’ kids. Both sad and chilling. We see how Brenner makes some kids more pliable by telling them they are ‘special’. Child abuse without doubt, a tough place to keep your head. Francine, though, is tough.

Still, everyone needs some support, and Francine has placed her trust, and her heart, in the hands of Three, a kid called Ricky. Is he genuine? a plant? Hard to be sure, but he seems to be saying and doing the right thing. The fact his abilities include that old Jedi mind trick persuasion shtick is cause for concern though. Brenner’s callous disregard for his ‘children’ is shown when he deliberately has Nine overextend herself to the point she nearly dies, all designed to keep the others in line. Brenner tries to spin it as a positive, that with the right checks and balances they are on the verge of achieving something, but Francine knows what’s what. She sneaks a note to Ricky. Time to get out of there.

Although I enjoyed delving into the past of the Hawkins Laboratory, and the MKUltra Project specifically, overall this issue felt a little light. Light on detail, light on plot advancement, and light on overall satisfaction. What Jody House did script was great, Francine is a good protagonist and Brenner’s creepiness is nicely handled, but the events of this entire issue seem designed just to make Francine want to leave. Salazar and Champagne did a decent job on the art, especially considering there was very little opportunity to cut loose visually with so much dialogue. The word of mouth on this book was good, so I am assuming this was a holding issue, in between the hectic first two issues and next issues wrap up.

Although an average issue overall, I can see why this book has been highly rated. Good characters, feels as though it seamlessly ties into the show, and the promise of an exciting final issue. Solid issue, but high quality series.

Stranger Things continue to happen.

***½  3.5/5

Stranger Things: Six #3 is out now from Dark Horse Comics.

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