Meant for ages 8-12, Black Sand Beach issue 2: Do You Remember the Summer Before? by Richard Fairgray offers a compelling horror/mystery that even adults will enjoy.
I was provided with a digital copy of Black Sand Beach issue 2: Do You Remember the Summer Before? for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
As stated in the title, the narrative in this graphic novel is about our young lead Dash trying to remember what happened to him the summer before while vacationing at Black Sand Beach. As someone who hasn’t read the first issue, I was interested in seeing if readers could jump into the sequel without trouble. I’m glad to report that you can. It’s easy to understand what’s going on as Dash reads through the entries in his journal and readers jump between flashbacks and the present timeline.
Even though he can’t recall, Dash did come to Black Sand Beach last summer and it’s fun to see what he got to experience and what led him to forget everything in the present. The flashbacks have Dash meet two mysterious little girls as he’s exploring the woods. There’s something troubling the girls and, similar to Dash, I found myself worrying about their fate.
The scene where Dash teaches the girls an important thing became a favorite of mine. The moment shows Dash’s caring side even though the ramifications, in the present, are something Dash couldn’t predict. Without giving any spoilers, the revelation about what’s really going on with the girls, and how said moment is delivered, is incredibly impressive. Fairgray hit all the right marks with the pacing, creepiness, and the final reveal.
What Dash went through last summer has a lot of links to the present as he, his cousins, and his best friend try and track down the zombie sheep Ramsays (who decides to put Dash’s journal into its mouth and run away). Finally catching up to a trapped Ramsays allows the kids to have an interesting discussion about whether or not they should help such a dangerous supernatural being. In the fictional world that Fairgray has created, there’s a lot of weirdness and danger around, so trust at your own peril. Dash and his friends have a lot to learn.
While Dash and his crew are busy, we also get to spend time with other characters. Black Sand Beach issue 2 opens with an introduction to Chook Molchuk, a young monster who doesn’t want to see the world end because Chook’s into music, fishing, climbing, and scaring children. If the world is destroyed, all of the things Chook loves will cease to exist. To protect the world, Chook’s made a deal with an incredibly huge monster. However, Chook’s unsure how long their end of the deal will continue to be kept to ensure the monster doesn’t come ashore. The kids do encounter Chook for a moment, and I hope that particular plot thread continues in the next issue. I like how there’s more than one specific thing occurring simultaneously.
The second issue also takes time to tell a disturbing story (vignette?) involving the human parents. With the kids away from the vacation cabin, we see the adults sitting down to play a board game. However, things take a turn for the worst when an old toy decides to bring a lot of nasty feelings to the surface. Sometimes it’s good to keep certain opinions to yourself as an adult because otherwise things can quickly get out of hand.
Talking about the adults, a real-life theme in the main Black Sand Beach narrative deals with Dash’s relationship with his stepmother Sharon. The journal entries share Dash slowly opening up to Sharon and bonding with her over pranks. However, an instance does seem to throw away all of the development because Dash feels he’s betraying his mother by spending too much time with Sharon. In my opinion, Fairgray handles their interactions quite well. Sharon’s matureness while addressing Dash’s behavior makes sense.
Before I end my review, I have to talk about the art. Don’t let the cartoonish art fool you. When the story wants to scare readers, it can easily do so while utilizing the cartoonish visuals to depict disturbing and creepy moments.
Another thing I like about the art is how the panels take time to showcase actions. As someone who reads a lot of comic books, there are some titles where you can’t help but go, “Did I miss something? What’s happening here?” because the art style and panel structure are confusing to follow. However, in Black Sand Beach issue 2, it’s easy to understand the panels. Also, visualizing a simple action across a number of panels (as shown in the image above) not only helps with reader engagement but works wonders during intense scenes.
If you have young readers, or you yourself are interested in a fun and creepy story involving a bunch of kids, mystery, and dangerous monsters, I recommend checking out Black Sand Beach issue 2. With how things concluded, I can’t wait to read the third installment.
Released on May 4, 2021, Black Sand Beach issue 2: Do You Remember the Summer Before? (the print length coming in at 192 pages) is available wherever books are sold.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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