Advance Review: Only True Fans Will Enjoy `Stranger Things: Summer Special’

by Tom Smithyman


As you’re processing the events of the latest season of Stranger Things, Dark Horse wants to bring you back to season three and the Battle of Starcourt Mall. It’s an interesting take on the story, but without any main characters, it feels more like a money grab than real entertainment.


While Netflix is breaking the internet with the latest season of Stranger Things, Dark Horse Comics wants to bring you back to last season in its latest one-shot.

Stranger Things: Summer Special is set in July 1985, just as the series fourth season comes to its explosive ending. In case you’ve forgotten, season four was the “mall season.” If you needed that reminder, this isn’t likely the issue for you. But if you are still reeling over the non-stop action and deaths in the recently released episodes, this special may quench your thirst. A bit.

Eschewing the main characters, this issue focuses on Hawkins police officers Calvin Powell and Phil Callahan, who take their responsibilities to protect and serve pretty loosely. It’s not that they are bad cops. They’re just a bit clueless. Their timing also leaves a lot to be desired.

Set up like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the Summer Special portrays Powell and Callahan as the lead characters as many of season three’s events take place around them. They encounter a deranged Billy Hargrove, patrol a protest over Mayor Larry Kline and are near the Starcourt Mall during the season’s climatic battle. The unwitting pair though keep missing the real action.

Writer Keith Champagne’s script is clever, but perhaps too clever for its own good. With fans obsessing over the new season’s revelations, only die-hard fanatics will pick up on all the references. And setting the story mid-season means leaving out the popular main characters. After all, what’s Stranger Things without Steve or Eleven?

Artist Caio Filipe doesn’t have a lot to work with in this story. Largely he is forced to draw the two cops in awkward situations. No demigorgons  or mind flayers, though we do get a few glimpses of the spider monster before the mall battle.

True Stranger Things fans will gobble this issue up. The rest of us will be waiting for the series’ final season.

Stranger Things: Summer Special will be available for purchase on July 6, 2022.

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