Specter Inspectors is a story about four friends; Noa, Astrid, Ko, and Gus, who travel together around states, looking for ghosts and haunted places for their new show, InSPOOKters. Noa’s been an avid believer in the supernatural ever since she was a kid when she discovered her ability for sensing such things. She’s the catalyst that brought them all together on this adventure; she got Astrid to go with them, even though she not only doesn’t believe in the supernatural but doesn’t believe in much of anything at all. She also got Ko to be their cameraman, despite being terrified of ghosts, and her little sibling, Gus, goes with them despite their age.
But what is Specter Inspectors really about? Is it horror? Well, yes, but also no. You see, I think that the best thing about horror is its versatility. While you can always try to blend genres and create something really interesting out of it, I notice a certain willingness, and even eagerness to change from that particular genre. I think this comic reflects that perfectly. It’s a coming-of-age story, as much as it is a horror story, and it does both astoundingly well.
The atmosphere feels comfortable in isolation, silence, and corruption. The characters often explore abandoned buildings, drive through deserted roads, and search forgotten woods. Every place looks absolutely beautiful, because of Bowen McCurdy’s art, but they also feel potentially dangerous at every moment. Thanks to the angles of the panels, it always feels like they are being watched from not so far away. There are sequences that are so well made, and take full advantage of the medium, that made me feel genuine chills. It’s almost palpable how meticulously crafted they are.
Then, maybe on the same page, there’s a joke that makes me laugh out loud, or engaging and touching drama between the characters, or a little bit of introspection about them, that makes them even more compelling. McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto, who wrote the book together, make them completely different from one another from the very start. Everyone has a fun and endearing personality, so much so that I ended up reading it aloud, giving specific voices and ways of expressing to each one of them, almost acting through the whole book. But it never feels like it’s putting too much focus on just one element. In fact, there’s a kind of symmetry with both; the coming of age that originates from the group, is invaded by horror, but the horror that lurks around them, is also invaded by the coming of age. That is very unusual in any type of story that has these elements but results in one of the most interesting parts of the comic.
With every passing issue, the tension slowly builds up, the mystery unravels, and the characters reach their highest point, almost acting as a ticking bomb, exploding uncontrollably in the fifth and final issue of the miniseries. The horror takes a turn, and goes from a ghost story, to a much more visceral aesthetic, with things that can’t even fit on a whole page. Our protagonists finally realize their problems, and maybe even solve them. The book rejoices in all the themes it shows; Love, terror, adventure, mystery, feeling lost, a found family, and ends everything with excellent payoffs for each one. In five issues, it explores so much, without limiting itself to be defined by only one of those themes, or doing it in superficial ways, that it feels unique and cozy. It’s excellent for people that want to get into alternative comics, or just for anyone that wants a fun, engaging, and easy-to-read story. I look forward to seeing more from this creative team, and hopefully from the fantastic group that is the Specter Inspectors.