Young adult/middle-grade graphic novel written and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no, not that Nathan Hale!) and published in 2019 by Amulet Books.
Okay, folks, wanna hear about one of the weirdest younger-readers comics I've read in a long, long time? Let's check this bad boy out.
Things start out, well, kinda predictably for a middle-grade graphic novel. The local high school drama club is having an all-night set-building session for their upcoming production of "Brigadoon." Responsible Ivan and his deeply irresponsible twin brother Axl are the lone junior-high kids on hand, solely because their mother is the drama teacher. The wrestling team raids the drama club's pizza stash, and eventually, the food runs out, and everyone gets hungry.
Ivan and Axl are assigned to go get food from the nearest McDonald's, thanks to a handful of MickeyD's gift certificates. And Sid, a high school girl with her own truck, volunteers to ferry them to the restaurant and back. But Axl manages to lose all the gift certificates, so the three of them decide to stop at the nearest Taco Bear instead, 'cause Mexican food sounds more appealing.
And that's when things start getting weird.
The Taco Bear is full of customers -- but there aren't any cars in the parking lot. And the doors are locked, so no one can come in. So the kids go through the drive-thru and pick up their order.
And the food transforms into shapeshifting flesh monsters.
After frantically throwing the food out the window, the kids race back to the school, only to find that all the drama students are also shapeshifting flesh monsters. And the school itself is a shapeshifting flesh monster.
Basically, everything is a shapeshifting flesh monster at this point.
The kids drive off, pursued by other cars, which are, of course, shapeshifting flesh monsters. They find an ally who's a ball of arms -- and when the arms get cut off, there's a grad student underneath.
And then everyone gets sucked underground into an immense slime hive of replicating skin bees.
Is there any way for Ivan, Axl, and Sid to escape? Has the world gone completely mad?
I loved this one, but boy, I'll tell ya, I never imagined I'd find a middle-grade YA graphic novel so absolutely drenched in body horror.
If you're into body horror, this is pretty great stuff. Besides the flesh monsters disguised as fast-food bags, lockers, cars, and people, you've got the grad student/arm monster, you've got a monster made of teeth, you've got giant mutated bees (which have been crossed with hummingbirds, squids, and a few other critters that should probably never be crossed with bees), you've got a vast underground temple of gooey, writhing meat and tentacles.
But it is a bit of a shock to find this much goopy horror -- and with a fairly downbeat bait-and-switch ending -- in a comic that starts out with a very familiar YA premise.
If you're an adult reader who loves weird, surreal horror, you'll enjoy the slime out of this. If you're getting this for a junior-high or upper elementary school student? Well, read it before you give it to them, and then decide if you think they can handle it. I don't think there's anything as scary as the shapeshifting monster from John Carpenter's "The Thing," but the sheer overwhelming volume of squishy tentacle horrors makes for some pretty intense moments.