Five Horror Comics You Should be Reading Right Now
Written by D. Alexander Ward, author of Bone and Ash and co-editor of Gutted
The world of comics and graphic novels is flooded monthly with amazing titles. Some are firmly rooted in horror and dark fantasy. Others have one tentacle in science fiction and the other in horror, while still others are hardboiled tales of intrigue and crime peppered with elements of what we've generally come to know and love as the horror genre.
So, with that in mind, be warned: this article isn't a "top-five" list. I couldn't imagine having the time to read everything current so as to be able to render that kind of opinion and chances are neither could you. This is a list of five kickass titles, though, that are either recent or ongoing and that-in the humble opinion of this reader and writer-deserve your attention.
Remember the thrill you got when you first cracked open the pages of 30 Days of Night or Preacher or Sandman or even Creepshow or Clive Barker's Tapping the Vein? (Yes, I'm reaching way back and showing my age on those last few.) Well, you can feel that way again!
Those transformative and almost magical connections to great, dark stories are out there to be had if you know where to look.
You'll want to get up to your local comic book store after this, so let's get started.
Harrow County (Dark Horse Comics)
Cullen Bunn, writer
From page one, this is dark as hell. Maybe dark as the Hell to which the folk of Harrow County mean to send the witch Hester Beck in the opening pages of this series as they tie her to a tree and burn her alive. Jump forward in time just a bit to the protagonist, a young farm girl named Emmy (who is about to see her eighteenth birthday) and her good-natured Pa who runs the farm. It doesn't take long for Bunn to reveal the connection between the sweet Emmy and the burned witch, but once he does, Emmy is thrust into a fight for her life and the reader is propelled into a backwoods Southern horror tale replete with shifty locals and haints and otherworldly beasts.
The first five volumes are available in trade paperback right now, so if you're into Southern Gothic and Horror, thenHarrow County is an incredibly imaginative and fun must-read series.
The October Faction (IDW Publishing)
Steve Niles, writer
I know what you're thinking.
"Oh, another comic about monster hunters. There just aren't enough of those!"
But this one is a bit different for some reason I can't quite put my crooked little finger on. I don't know if it's the subtlety with which the subject matter is handled – which keeps it from becoming campy – or if it's the watercolory (that's a word, right?) bad-dream type art style or maybe a bit of both, but I am a big fan of this Steve Niles-penned title and maybe you will be, too.
This family of monster hunters is less like Sam and Dean Winchester and more like the Addams Family with weapons and dark magic. It's gloomy and bloody and sometimes funny and always a great read. If you're of a mind to get started, the first three volumes are available right now in trade paperback.
|Britannia (Valiant Entertainment)
Peter Milligan, writer
Meet Antonius Axia, the world's first detective – or "detectioner" as he is called by the emperor in this fantastic four-issue comic. Axia, a war-weary Roman soldier, is sent to the wilds of Britannia to find out just what the hell is going on out there and to facilitate the assertion of Rome's control in the region.
Well, as we soon find out, Axia has a deeper personal history – one tangled in the mystical traditions of ancient Rome and inexorably tied to the gods and demons of this far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire.
Part detective story, part historical mystery, and part horror, this gem packs a punch with everything from the stellar writing to the brutally rendered art to the wealth of additional information about Roman history that appears in each issue.
It's a bold and unconventional historical horror tale that is well worth your time, so pick it up and wade into the mud, blood, and monsters.
|Penny Dreadful (Titan Comics)
Krysty Wilson-Cairns, writer
Either you found the Showtime series a tired bastardization of established creatures and villains from literature...or you found it a dark and delightful love letter to the Gothic horror of the Victorian age.
I, for one, am firmly in the latter camp. If you are, too, then you should give this comic series a go.
The first five issues serve as a prequel to the show, adding some meat with substantial backstory that includes an introduction to Jonathan Harker, Sir Malcolm's time in Africa and how he and Sembene became bound to each other, and the first inkling of the prophecy centered on Vanessa Ives. The last page of brings us right to the first moments of the television show and you know the story from there.
But it is worth noting that the forthcoming issues of the comic will pick up with some of the key characters who were left, especially Ethan.
If you are a fan of the show, that alone should get you in through the rusty, black wrought iron gates of this world brilliantly created by John Logan. But I think you'll stay for the Gothic thrills, the thoughtful pace, the time spent with beloved characters, and the art that is at once dreamy and nightmarish. This is available now in trade paperback as volume one. So sink your fangs into this one and drink deep, my child. Drink deep.
|The Black Monday Murders (Image Comics)
Jonathan Hickman, writer
Remember when, as we were all still high and buzzing from the first season of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto said that season two would be about "the secret occult history of the United States transportation system?"
And then we watched it and discovered that was total bullshit?
I bring up the TV show and the sour grapes over season two because the aesthetic of The Black Monday Murders has all the smoldering bleakness and character engagement that made us fall in love with the first season of True Detective. And none of the bullshit.
One could even utter that the comic is about the secret (fictional) history of the American financial market. Because it's true. It is a simmering noir with an undercurrent of supernatural horror that ebbs and flows but is always present. Some may find it a little dense, but I would disagree.
While not a "popcorn" comic in the least, this one will work itself under your skin, like a splinter.
With The Black Monday Murders, Hickman has created something dark and wonderful and-dare I say? – literary. The art, done in crisp, muted color tones, is superb and is a perfect fit for the story that unfolds. The current issues are collected in a trade paperback which I suggest you pick up. It's a beautiful book. I highly, highly recommend this title!
Because if this first volume is any indication, then the coming issues will be equally as vicious and spellbinding.
HorrorTalk.com would like to thank D. Alexander Ward for taking the time to share this piece with us. Make sure to pick up his books by clicking on the links below!
D.Alexander Ward is an author and editor of horror and dark fiction and is an involved participant in the indie horror community.
Beneath Ash & Bone, a Gothic horror/mystery, is his latest novel out from Bedlam Press. His Southern-flavored action-horror book, Blood Savages: A Blackguards Novel, is available from Necro Publications.
As an editor, he co-edited Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories from Crystal Lake Publishing and the Lovecraftian horror anthology, Shadows Over Main Street. He is currently at work co-editing Shadows Over Main Street, Volume 2.
Along with his family and the haunts in the woods, he lives near the farm where he grew up in what used to be rural Virginia, where his love for the people, passions and folklore of the South was nurtured. There, he spends his nights penning tales of the dark, strange, and fantastic.