I just finished reading TARA NORMAL: BOOK 1 by Howie Noel. Howie had come to this year’s Free Comic Book Day over at Comic Fusion and I was already familiar with his work in the TAPS Para Magazine which was my first exposure to the character of Tara Normal. At that point, it was one or two panels with some joke in regards to ghost hunting or the people on the show Ghost Hunters. I enjoyed it for what it was and when I saw Howie at New York Comic Con a few years back I picked up a collected volume of the web comics which I enjoyed quite a bit.
When I saw he had a Book 1 for sale I had to pick it up. I found myself really enjoying the book, but it wasn’t without fault. The biggest issue I had was the storyline. Given it was the first book in what I assume is going to be a series, I found it assumed you knew a little more about Tara’s world. I think a page or two prologue to tell some of the backstory for new readers using this as a jumping on point or assuming it’s the start may be helpful. Beyond that and without going into spoilers, I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be an origin story or if it wanted to be the end of Tara’s story. By the end of the book, the story feels like it could keep going, but it also feels like Tara’s done everything she’s set out to do.
That said, there was a lot of good here as well. First off, the art style is wonderful for this type of story. It’s got a light feel to it that while there are some really horrible things going on in this book and you see the blood and gore of it it doesn’t bother you all that much. And I’m squeamish when it comes to blood and guts in books. There are lots of little nods to both Ghost Hunters and the paranormal fields, in general. If you have an interest in that sort of thing there’s a treasure trove of little references here and there for you to catch. When I picked it up a second time for the purpose of this review, I found lots of other little references I missed the first time around. I’m a sucker for books that can do that.
All-in-all TARA NORMAL: BOOK 1 is a really good read if you have interests in horror and/or paranormal genres, but I’d pick up the web comics first to help you get acquainted with the world Howie’s built up. This feels more like an epilogue then the start of ongoing story.
VODKA O’CLOCK 1322 with Howie Noel talking about creator-owned comics