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Webcomic / The Last Halloween

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The Last Halloween is a comedy-horror webcomic by Abby Howard of Strip Search fame. On Halloween, the world is being overrun by monsters, and it is, unfortunately, up to a reluctant young girl named Mona (and her undead "friends") to save the world. It's very funny and also very gory.

The Last Halloween contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Mona survives the initial monster attack and later has her arm amputated after falling out of Ringley's flying machine and facing down Baal.
  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted. Both Parent and Dr. Fugue initially seem incompetent, but it quickly becomes clear that Parent is significantly more capable than would seem to be the case when it comes to protecting Mona, and Fugue's decision to send Mona to retrieve the Phagocyte's heir is always portrayed as his chief point of stupidity. Mostly by Mona.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Mona.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: See "Reason You Suck" Speech below.
  • Art Evolution: It's subtle, but Howard eventually goes from drawing characters with four-fingered hands to five-fingered hands.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Abby Howard actually has a background in Biology and Paleontology (which is where her journal comic "Junior Scientist Power Hour" gets its name), and has extensive knowledge of animal anatomies, but she allows herself certain liberties with her monster designs due to their supernatural nature. Susannah's head, for example, appears to be just a skull, with no skin or muscle over it, and therefore no visible means to open and close her jaw.
  • Anyone Can Die: Even immortals.
  • Apocalypse How: Could land anywhere from Class 1 to Class 3b, depending on how long the world is left without a functional Phagocyte.
    • It's also debatable if the worst-case scenario would qualify as 3a or 3b.
  • Big Bad: J.D. and Dogman. They crippled the Phagocyte, allowing billions of monsters to leave the Shadow Realm and slaughter humanity. Neither appears to be completely evil, but merely a Well-Intentioned Extremist, with J.D. trying to make life better for the undead and Dogman doing the same for monsters.
  • Big Good: The Phagocyte, for a given value of "good". He keeps humanity safe from the Shadow Realm, but seems to take things too far with regards to the undead.
  • Big "NO!": Mona when she realizes that she's pretty much stuck with Ringley as a travelling companion.
  • Black and Nerdy: Charon. Under his cloak, he's wearing glasses and a Fast Hedgehog shirt.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: Mona's costume started out white. It didn't stay that way, after she was Swallowed Whole and had to carve her way out.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "Mona, just say yes, this got old six panels ago."
  • Break the Cutie: Mona might have a kind of gruff personality and some Creepy Child tendencies, but at the end of the day, she's a normal (if precocious) human ten year old who goes through some awful things. While they're played for humor, it's made very clear that she doesn't come out without serious damage being done. The long term damage Mona suffered becomes very apparent in this strip where three figures that are clearly an older version of Mona, her monster, and Ringley are watching Libby, Chips, and Malcom from the shadows and discussing whether or not to help them. Mona in particular acts very cold and pragmatic during the conversation without so much as a hint of the girl she used to be present.
  • Body Horror: A major, recurring motif.
    • A man's head opens in an early television broadcast to reveal that he is a hive of massive flesh wasps.
    • Serious, disturbingly realistic looking burns are depicted repeatedly on the body of the severely injured Phagocyte.
    • An early monster is at least two creatures sewn together. A later chapter allows the creature to explain itself, where it tells a doctor that it is not a monster, but a god who may represent body horror as a concept.
    • A monster graphically cut apart by Mona is still alive due to its being immortal. It strives to put itself back together, finally succeeding.
  • The Call Has Bad Reception: See The Obi-Wannabe.
  • The Cameo: The main characters of Courage the Cowardly Dog appear in the background of one scene, with Eustace being messily killed by a monster as Muriel and Courage flee.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ringley.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Mona sees monsters beginning their horrific assault on mankind on live television, including several stations that simply go dead. Mona just assumes that her parent forgot to pay the cable bill.
    "And there are wax lips in here! Who buys wax lips? EVERYTHING IS THE WORST."
  • Complete Immortality: Monsters who kill their humans. Only one thing can kill them: other immortals.
    • And then there's the Gods, who appear to be completely unkillable.
  • Creepy Child: Shirley looks like this, but she's actually a pretty normal person (albeit an adult stuck in a child's decaying body). Ringley fits the trope more through naivety combined with supernatural powers than through being intentionally dangerous, while Mona hits a few points by being forced into Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, including killing a monster, butchering and threatening an immortal monster, riding a dead goat monster, and carrying a sentient bone scythe.
  • Creepy Doll: Robert, who was specifically created to make people around him more miserable.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A bit of a complicated example. The Undead play this trope straight, and very few of them are outright evil. JD is a Well-Intentioned Extremist and the Ghouls were initially created by Baal for a genocidal uprising, but most of the Undead are just wanting to live normal lives. The Monsters zig-zag the trope. As a group, they're Mostly Chaotic Evil, but a rare handful of them are good or neutral. Even in those cases, though, they may be inclined to cause suffering in the long run.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mona and Shirley are more snarky than deadpan, but Robert is far more deadpan thanks to his expressionless face.
  • Determinator: Mona has become one.
  • Distressed Dude: Mona is sent on a quest to rescue the Phagocyte's son.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: A nurse is chastised for calling a burned man in the hospital "barbeque".
  • Dwindling Party
  • Emergency Transformation: Ringley's father turned him into a vampire back when he was dying of the plague.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: With the Phagocyte dead, every monster has taken the opportunity to emerge into the human world. The result is, at the minimum, a major blow to human civilization, if not the end of humankind.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The supernatural characters Mona has to travel with are first seen digging up a corpse, while arguing over who has to carry it.
  • Eternal Love: Or friendship, rather. Ringley offers to turn Mona into a vampire, so they can be friends forever.
    Ringley: I can make you a vampire and we can hang out for eternity! We can be buddies with all the animals when humanity dies out, we can have slumber parties until the heat death of the universe. We will float forever in the void, playing hide and seek in the absolute darkness of nothingness.
    Mona: I'm cool with not doing those things.
  • Eye Scream
  • Fantastic Racism: The behavior of the Phagocyte toward the Undead, although it at times extends beyond Fantastic Racism. His kangaroo courts, forced disappearances, and apparent genocidal tendencies definitely fall into the category of Van Helsing Hate Crimes.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Happened to the fourth, unnamed god. Stitches was very deliberate about not providing details.
  • Gallows Humor: The comic runs on it.
  • Genre Savvy: Mona, although the subversions of horror tropes in the story mean that this doesn't work as often as she would like.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Tick Tock, for a given value of "villain". The end of book one shows that he could have stopped J.D. from taking out the Phagocyte (whom he serves), and thus prevented the genocide that ensued, but didn't. He also seems to be in charge of the other Gods.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The Gods do a version of this to the doctor whom they recruit to care for the Phagocyte as he very slowly recovers; unlike may examples, her memory does not carry over between loops.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: Very difficult to pin down on the morality spectrum, and varies with perspective, perhaps even straying into Blue-and-Orange Morality. The story deals with the interaction between three races: humans, monsters and the undead. Humans, as a whole, are completely innocent, and have done nothing wrong to the other two races; the only morally ambiguous human in the story is the Phagocyte, who is charged with humanity's protection but takes it too far with regards to the undead. The monsters lean heavily towards evil: once the Phagocyte is wounded, they proceed to slaughter humans in droves. This is very slightly complicated by the fact that every monster is otherwise destined to die along with its human (as well as the existence of a few "good" monsters), but even discounting the fact that this uncertainty of death is hardly worse than what humans have to live with, most (if not all) of the invading monsters went on killing sprees, not just stopping at their own human. The undead are more ambiguous and seem to run the moral gamut, but are also seen as an oppressed minority, living under constant fear of the Phagocyte.
  • Gorn: The other thing the comic runs on.
  • The Grim Reaper: Charon.
  • Guardian of the Multiverse: The Phagocyte. He is the one that keeps humanity safe from the shadow world, preventing monsters from killing their respective human.
  • Hero's Journey: Referenced by Doctor Fugue while trying to persuade Mona to save the world.
    • Actually follows the formula pretty well, including the Supernatural Aid (the scythe), Can't Refuse the Call Anymore (Mona getting swallowed up by the monster in Ringley's castle), and the "Night Sea Voyage" (the Shadow World). There's even a refusal by the protagonist to return to (what's left of) the normal world. Of course, it's all subverted by the fact that the Journey itself turned into a Shoot the Shaggy Dog plot.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mona, after Duncan is killed, and Fugue tells her that it doesn't even matter, because the quest that he sent her on wouldn't have worked anyways. She throws up and passes out, although this overlaps with...
  • Heroic RRoD: Because Mona's collapse likely has a lot to do with her arm becoming infected and the apparently dangerous amounts of morphine she was given by the grossly incompetent Dr. Fugue.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: After Mona wakes up from her Heroic BSoD and finds that her arm has been amputated.
  • Immortality Bisexuality: Ringley's dad is very affectionate toward Mona's parent.
  • Immortality Inducer: All monsters are bound to a particular human, and all monsters die when their humans die... with one exception: if a monster kills "their" human, they become immortal. This is why Mona's monster is protecting her for the time being- if she dies by any other means, it will die as well. Though given more recent developments this particular monster doesn't seem interested in killing Mona meaning it's either not willing to become immortal but not ready to die, or it's not HER monster.
  • Immortality Seeker: Almost every monster qualifies. See Immortality Inducer above. A rare few monsters only want to coexist with their humans: the story has only shown two, and one of them eventually chose to kill his human (with said human's permission) rather than let him die of natural causes.
  • Killed Off for Real: Despite his immortality, Robert is crushed to death by Baal, as immortals can kill other immortals.
  • Knight Templar: The Phagocyte. He keeps monsters confined to the Shadow Realm, preventing them from wiping out humanity, but he also seems to think all undead deserve to die.
  • Last of His Kind: Shirley, the last ghoul in the world. All the others were wiped out by a single man.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Lampshaded. Mona and co. need to find Ringley's dad's car, hidden somewhere in his vast castle. Ringley suggests splitting up with a Shout-Out to the trope namer, and even Robert concedes that it would speed up the search, despite Mona's protests.
  • Light Is Not Good: While he mostly protected humanity from Monsters, the Phagocyte was also a Fantastic Racist against the Undead, a fact that apparently sparked the conflict depicted in the story.
  • Living Toys: Robert is a living doll, cursed to life by Voodoo magic. He's actually a monster who became immortal after killing his human.
  • Living Weapon: Mona's axe has a very real-looking eye and flies to her hand when called for. Exhibits this trope even further when Robert's disembodied hand fuses with it, allowing it to kill immortal monsters.
  • The Lost Lenore: Parent for Mona's mom, and Ringley's dad for his wife. They both attend a seance to try to make contact with their spirits, but are both unsuccessful.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Fugue is a Ghost who seems extremely interested in carving up bodies and putting them back together.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: A non-villainous example: Charon, who carries the souls of the dead to the afterlife, appears to be a towering Grim Reaper, but under his hood and cloak he seems to be a small teenage-looking Black and Nerdy kid sitting on a comically-oversized stool.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Robert.
  • Mercy Kill: Subverted by Robert. His human's life became so awful that he asked Robert to kill him, but that was Robert's fault.
  • The Mole: Dogman is a partial example: he really seems to consider J.D. to be a friend, and is helping her, but he also leaked out information that the Phagocyte would be taken out, which accelerated the monster invasion.
  • Monster Mash: Literally every monster and supernatural baddie has come out to play thanks to the apparent death of the Phagocyte.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Fugue.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: An extremely understated example, given the par for the trope. Doctor Fugue fucked up big, and while he never falls down on his knees and shouts the trope out loud, he clearly acknowledges how unforgivable his mistakes were. See the "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: A very subtle example, but the tombstone visible when Ringley, Robert, and Shirley are introduced robbing a grave has the corpse's date of death listed as 2017 (a date in the relatively near future at the time the comic was written).
  • No Name Given: Mona's parent and Ringley's dad haven't been given names yet.
  • Noodle Incident: Played with. Something happened the last time that Ringley took his vampire dad's flying car, and Ringley treats it like something everyone should know about without explanation. However, no one else knows about it in-universe, so it's just as much of a Noodle Incident for the other characters.
  • no punctuation is funnier: A big part of Abby Howard's style, although it is far more evident in her journal comic.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In case it wasn't clear, Mona is told by Charon that the world can never go back to the way it was.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Ringley. His dad saved him from dying of plague by turning him into a vampire, but it also appears to have frozen his mental development, forcing him to live out eternity as a ditzy Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
    "He'd have been better off dying in his youth than spending eternity in it. It's had a damaging effect on him. He could be with my wife, but instead he is here, living out a cursed existence, dreaming of sunlight and an uninterrupted life."
  • The Obi-Wannabe: Doctor Fugue. He educates Mona on the workings of monsters, the Shadow World and the Phagocyte. After sending the gang to rescue Duncan, he learns that the entire quest (which cost Robert his life, Shirley her body, and Mona her arm) was completely pointless, even before Duncan was killed.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mona's response to finally realizing that Ringley, Shirley, Robert, and Banjo aren't actually humans in costume is...surprisingly realistic for a ten year old who realizes that she's surrounded by the Undead. Subverted, however, in that they're not particularly dangerous to her.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Possibly Banjo, Ringley's "pet" were-opossum who is seen waking up outside Fugue's house butt-naked in his human form in the morning of All Hallow's Day, thinking the events of the previous night were just a dream. Knowing Ringley, he's probably never even bothered to find out Banjo's real name.
  • Orwellian Retcon: Several strips have had their dialogue edited since their initial posting to remove some Early-Installment Weirdness. For example, the dialogue between Mona and Parent was altered to make Parent seem less like a Creepy Crossdresser. Also when Mona called herself a ghoul, Shirley initially had a speech about how "played out" calling oneself a ghoul had become, but has since been changed after Abby decided to make Shirley the only ghoul left in the world. Readers who began with the comic's launch may want to reread from the beginning as a refresher.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: All monsters are tied to a respective human. They are born at the same time as their human, and they become the physical representations of the human's greatest fear. They also become immortal if they kill the human they're tied to, but die if their human dies by any other means.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Banjo, the were-opossum.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Ringley actually seems to be a fairly traditional vampire, albeit somewhat ditzy.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Shirley is quick to call Mona out on the "zombie" moniker, saying that she prefers to be referred to as a "ghoul."
  • Outside-Context Problem: Humanity had no way of predicting or preparing for the monster invasion. Many of the monsters shown in the comic are capable of slaughtering dozens of humans with ease, and there are billions of them: one for every human. Humanity was nearly wiped out in a single night.
  • Overly Long Scream: Upon realizing that the people she's surrounded by are, in fact, the undead, Mona freaks out royally. For several pages.
    Fugue: Listen here, little girl. I'll have you know I am quite experienced in many unpleasant surgical procedures designed to calm patients down and I am not afraid to use them on you. So if you want to keep your prefrontal cortex attached to the rest of your brain, I suggest you stop this incessant howling at once.
    Mona: (screaming intensifies)
    Robert: Good work, Fugue. You've discovered that she can, in fact, scream louder.
  • Pet the Dog: J.D. has moments where she shows genuine kindness and compassion, including a literal example at the end of Book 1 where she pets Scratch.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Shirley is practically glued to her cell phone, and one of the first things monsters do when getting into the world is create social media accounts. It becomes a plot point when it turns out Shirley knows the Phagocyte's son.
    Robert: So. You personally know this fellow we're questing after?
    Shirley: Yeah, we're friends.
    Robert: I was unaware you had other friends.
    Shirley: You really need to learn about the internet, I don't just stand around typing into the void all day. These are actual people I'm talking to.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Downplayed as it was nearly fatal, but the Phagocyte's incapacitation is what allows monsters to come out of hiding and attack humans.
  • Police Are Useless: Robert notes that the police will simply write off reports of monster attacks as prank calls, and says their foolish pride makes them most useful as diversions or bait. Cut to the police station, where the police are getting slaughtered.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The events of the story are triggered by the death of The Phagocyte, the entity that kept balance between the human and monster worlds.
    • It appears, however, that the Phagocyte didn't die in the fire and was merely incapacitated. Whether or not he'll survive in his weakened state is still up in the air.
      • He is deliberately being kept alive by The Gods and J.D., the latter of which intends to finish the job as soon as his son is properly groomed to inherit the job. What remains to be seen now is whether the Phagocyte may recover before the time comes.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Ringley and his dad. They're both vampires who were born in the middle ages.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Mona gives a bone-chillingly laconic one after losing her arm.
    Fugue: I suppose it's a little early to be lighthearted about it. But someday I'm sure we'll all laugh about this whole mess!
    Mona: No. I will never laugh about this. You suck, and I will hate you forever.
    Fugue: .... That's fair.
  • Refusal of the Call: Mona points out the flaw in sending her on a quest during the monster invasion.
    Mona: I am a ten year old child, I will die very quickly.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Ringley is sent back to Dr. Fugue to get help. He immediately forgets this errand (exactly as the sender expected), but it does keep him out of harm's way while the rest of the group enters the shadow world.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    Charon: Please tell me you didn't send another group of untrained misfits to their deaths without knowing what was going on?
    Fugue: ...
    Charon: Fugue no
    Fugue: ......
    Charon: How many times do we have to have this talk
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silent Antagonist: Tick Tock.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Monsters tend pursue one person because that person is their human, and killing them will grant the Monster immortality. Subverted with Susannah, who definitely seems willing to go through hell and high water to kill Mona, but is actually trying to protect her.
  • Swallowed Whole: Mona gets swallowed by a monster and is nearly assimilated into its Hive Mind.
  • Takes One to Kill One: A fundamental rule of immortality - "immortals can kill other immortals" - is revealed when Ba'al crushes Robert to death.
  • Time Skip: Book 2 picks up five years after the end of Book 1.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Mona gets Swallowed Whole by a monster in Ringley's house. Mona realizes that she can't rely on others to save her, and makes her first kill to get out of it. Abby even lampshades this with the title of the subsequent comic: 'Mona is Cool Now'.
  • Undead Child: Ringley and Shirley.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ringley toward Mona. He is convinced that they are best friends and is oblivious to how much he annoys her.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: J.D. and Dogman.
  • Wham Episode: Tons.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Robert.
    "I've found immortality to be long and lonely, and perhaps more of a curse than any sort of prize."
    • In general, the implications of immortality in this series are treated pretty negatively. Most characters who want to be immortal aren't yet or have been only for a relatively short time. Those who seek and attain immortality are at best torn on how they feel about it, and at worst actively seek to die.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Mona, who has watched so many action and horror movies that her first impulse after realizing that the police can't help is to call Kurt Russell. Humanity as a whole also qualifies: apparently a ghoul invasion was successfully thwarted by a single man in the past, due in large part to humanity's familiarity with horror tropes. Unfortunately, the scale of the current problem is no mere local zombie invasion, but a monster invasion on a global scale, leaving humans virtually defenseless.
  • Zombie Advocate: A rare example of Zombie Self-Advocates. JD and Shirley are both Undead who believe rather strongly that they are being oppressed by the Phagocyte, and not without good reason, the fact that Shirley is largely an online activist and JD is a Well-Intentioned Extremist notwithstanding.