The countdown to Stranger Things Season 3 is on, with almost three months left until the Hawkins crew is back for more action. Last season brought another layer of character development for the main cast, introduced new residents, delved deeper into the Upside Down, slightly expanded the show’s universe, and took Will through a scary experience via his continued connection to the Shadow Monster. The story will continue to push forward with Eleven adjusting to normal teenage life and more Upside Down chaos, but there have always been questions about how Will survived in the Upside Down — until now.
Dark Horse Comics has brought Will’s mysterious time in a dangerous world to life with the Stranger Things comic miniseries, which documents the entirety of Season 1 from his perspective. The four-issue comic was penned by veteran Jody Houser (Orphan Black, James Bond: Moneypenny) and recently released its final issue to complete the series. Stranger Things expertly weaved in brilliantly crafted narration along with Will’s self-musings to place emphasis on his resourcefulness, thought processes, and determination to return home.
The TV series barely introduced the character before he disappeared for the majority of the season, so this comic gives readers a chance to get to know Will before his life was changed by this harrowing experience. He’s just as delightful as his comrades as he adapts his “Will the Wise” persona, using lessons learned from D&D sagas to help him survive this real-life dark realm. Fans will have a deeper understanding of why Season 2 Will went through so much emotional turmoil.
The Stranger Things comic interweaved key plot points from Season 1, particularly Will’s interactions with his mom. It takes several well-known scenes, including the telephone calls and their letter and Christmas light system, and gives them an entirely new meaning because it’s no longer a one-sided interaction. The reader gets to feel Will’s fear and frustration as he tries to understand his surroundings and, in a shocking twist, it’s revealed that Will witnessed some important events. He was significantly close to freedom several times, including one instance where he saved another character’s life. Most significantly, the major question of how he was able to manipulate lights is addressed, along with how Eleven knew about Will's whereabouts, to begin with.
The comic is aesthetically pleasing with well-laid panels featuring subdued yet strong pencil, ink, and color work from Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, and Lauren Affe, respectively. The artwork drapes familiar locations that aren’t explored in the Upside Down TV realm with an unsettling bleakness, which is wonderfully contrasted with Will’s bright, hopeful flashbacks that are interspersed throughout his desperate journey towards survival.
Overall, this miniseries is an easy, engaging, and quick read that pairs well with a TV series re-watch to prep for the upcoming season. It’s a great time to jump into this Stranger Things comic universe because it’s going to expand soon. Dark Horse Comics and Jody Houser are following up with Six, a four-issue prequel focused on Eleven’s predecessor, on May 29. Devour Will Byers' story and open the gateway to the untold stories of Hawkins, Indiana, before the show returns with more adventures.