A new miniseries from Bowen McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto, Specter Inspectors tells the story of a group of paranormal investigators who have recently found great success with their web series. However, things take a turn for the worse when they encounter an actual malevolent spirit.
The characters introduced in this first issue are immediately likable and relatable. Even when they’re bickering with one another or complaining about the place they’re in, they never feel like they’re being totally unreasonable, and the dialogue is both clever and natural. The smartest thing this first issue does, even before the spooky stuff gets going, is that it makes you feel like you could easily hang with this group outside of the supernatural shenanigans.
A good portion of this issue also deals with the struggles of the creative process, and how one goes about making their own work stand out from the pack. As it turns out, there is more than one way to make your mark in the field of paranormal research on the internet — but not everyone will agree with your methods.
The horror elements of the issue don’t feel particularly scary, but that’s okay. Where the real excitement comes from is how these characters, already well-defined and enjoyable, react to the otherworldly circumstances they’ve found themselves in. Even so, the sight of a possessed character toward the end of the issue manages to be unsettling in the way that they are shown in extreme close-ups and reflections, but rarely head-on.
McCurdy’s heavy linework makes every character stand out from their gloomy surroundings. And even though the locations are places like dusty old mansions and drab motels, the book still looks colorful and vibrant.
The concept of a group of teenagers/young adults hunting ghosts is not a new one, but the creative team on Specter Inspectors manages to breathe new and relevant life into the premise.
The series’ novel approach to the story is seen from the very beginning of the issue, as the titular Inspectors agonize over getting the intro right on their latest video. Do they have a catchphrase that will catch on? Can they maintain the momentum from their last episode? Is their recording equipment actually turned on, or is this going to be a repeat of an earlier failure?
The amateur vibe to their investigation is immediately endearing, and it makes the reader want to see them succeed. This feeling is compounded for anyone who is or has been a content creator.
And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how great it is to see how queer-friendly this book is. The unrequited love story at its center is not only sweet, but also achingly familiar for anyone who has been afraid to tell their crush how they feel.
One thing that didn’t quite work (for me, at least) is the non-linear presentation of the story. A good portion of the issue is presented as footage that the team is looking over, but the move from one timeframe to another didn’t feel terribly smooth on a first read. Even so, it was easy to get into the overall rhythm of the story and enjoy following the characters as they embarked on their latest mission.
Speaking of which, McCurdy has also given each of these characters a distinctive look and sense of fashion. They’re all incredibly expressive, as well, which clues the audience in on how they’re feeling in any given scene and fleshes out their characters even further. For example, of the most telling moments for Astrid is when we see the cut from her confident stare in the raw footage to her exasperated face in the editing process. It’s immediately apparent how badly she wants this channel to take off, as well as how supportive the group is around her — even when she’s driving them bonkers with her perfectionist streak.
It’s hard not to love the characters in Specter Inspectors. Personally, I can’t wait to see where the next few issues take them.
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