The long brutal experience that has been 2016 is fortunately coming to an end. Before we bury everything that happened in this year and try our hardest to forget it, let's take a quick look back at some of the best horror comics released over the past twelve months. There have been quite a few to choose from, including independent books created thanks to Kickstarter all the way up to a Batman crossover where the Caped Crusader fought a giant monster baby. It's been a helluva year.
I've outlined my picks for the top 10 horror comics of 2016 below. As with every year, I've got to point out that try as I might, I have not read every single horror funny book that comes out. I'd love to do so, but it's pretty much impossible. If your favorite book – or even one you created – isn't on the list, sound off in the comments. Maybe I just haven't read it and I can sing its praises with a separate review. Now, on to the list!
10. Croak (Alterna Comics)
I don't know about you, but I have absolutely no interest in camping. I enjoy a roof over my head and a toilet nearby. Comics like Croak just reinforce this feeling. It follows a group of co-eds as they venture out into the woods. They encounter strange bird-like monsters within. This is a story where this just happens. You don't get an origin story for the beasts or deep background on the characters. They go in and terror ensues. I'm glad that writer Cody Andrew Sousa pursued this route; although I'd love to find out more information, it's unneeded to dive into the comic.
Artist Francesco Iaquinta provides a ton of emotion, especially as the characters are fleeing for their lives through the trees. You can see it in the tears streaming down their cheeks and the frantic look in their eyes. The monsters are scary as hell, looking like a feathered dinosaur / human hybrid.
9. Negative Space (Dark Horse Comics) I've seen all sorts of monsters reviewing comics for HorrorTalk, but Negative Space was the first where a man's depression was the beast he was trying to overcome. Writer Ryan K. Lindsay and artist Owen Gieni craft this amazing story in which a mega-corporation profits on the misery of the world, feeding it to ancient undersea beings capable of destroying humanity. It's up to an empath named Guy who was literally about to kill himself before he got writer's block on his suicide note, to save the world.
What stands out immediately with Negative Space is Gieni's tremendous artwork, especially with the creatures. They're like some bizarre cross between an octopus, a sting ray, and a bucket of teeth and knives. This is balanced with the poignant scenes with Guy as he realizes his true purpose and what it means for the rest of his life. It's somehow heartbreaking, terrifying, and uplifting at once.
8. Grizzlyshark (Image Comics) The premise of this book is simple. It's about a vicious shark that eats everyone it comes into contact with...in the woods. Yes, it's weird, but it is so damn fun. This is the comic tailor made for anyone with a dark sense of humor. The death scenes are elaborate, over-the-top, and drenched in blood and they only get crazier as the series goes on. The shark can sense blood from miles away, so it's hilarious watching as an innocent camper gets a paper cut and suddenly gets his torso ripped off.
Writer / artist Ryan Ottley delivers perhaps the most fun you'll have in a horror comic all year. I sincerely hope that he revisits this series again because it is just too good.
7. Death Follows (Dark Horse Comics) Now, this might seem like a bit of a cheat because Death Follows was originally published digitally as The Remains from Monkeybrain Comics in 2014. It's my list and I'm keeping it on here because this is the first time it was collected and it even got renamed. Plus, it deserves to be on this list as it's one of the most unsettling reads of the year. It centers on a young girl named Birdie and the slimy traveler named Cole Jensen, who has begun working on her family farm. You can tell from the moment you see him that he's not to be trusted. Much of this is due to A.C. Zamudio's stellar artwork. Dead things come back to life near Cole and there's a dark reason for it.
Writer Cullen Bunn has a real talent for southern-brewed horror and Death Follows is no different. It builds the terror as it goes on, leading to a disturbing end that will stay with you long after you put the book down. As if that wasn't enough, the final pages feature a scene that's almost too creepy to be believed.
6. Interceptor (Heavy Metal) In the distant future, humanity leaves the planet after nuking it to try to get rid of all the vampires. Years later, we learn that the vampires are still alive and they're pissed. Plus, there are still humans left on earth. Humankind sends Poli, a super strong warrior with a battle suit, to go back home and kick some bloodsucker ass.
Interceptor is a high octane sci-fi / horror mashup that never slows down. Writer Donny Cates creates some absolutely insane action scenes that can melt your face off. Artist Dylan Burnett brings these to life in total glory. You have not lived until you've seen a big robot suit facing off against a hulking vampire. The finale leaves things open for a sequel that I really hope comes to fruition.
5. House of Penance (Dark Horse Comics) The sprawling Winchester House is continuously under construction to hold off Sarah's inner demons. This is how she's coping with the loss of her family and perhaps those demons are not just in her head. House of Penance is a creepy, beautifully illustrated tale that gets deeper under your skin with each turn of the page. Writer Peter J. Tomasi crafts this tale of horror and heartbreak.
Ian Bertram's artwork adds to the unsettling feeling of the book, especially when all the blood starts flowing. It spirals out of control, like it's about to engulf the characters. Meanwhile, everyone looks tense, like they're under a lot of pressure just living their lives. Something's got to give and it does so in a tremendous way.
4. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior (Valiant Entertainment) Gilad Anni-Padda is the immortal Eternal Warrior, serving as the Fist and Steel of the planet and protecting the Geomancer. That sounds great and all, but what happens when he dies? It turns out he gets rewarded by being sent to a utopian afterlife where he lives comfortably with his wife and children. He realizes his fight is not done and must return to the land of the living, so he literally walks through Hell to do so.
Writer Robert Venditti crafts this gut-wrenching tale that cements the Eternal Warrior's status as a character capable of standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Superman and other titans of the industry. This is what a hero looks like. He'll stop at nothing to do what's right, even if that means being put through unspeakable acts of cruelty while hordes of demons taunt him. Robert Gill's artwork shows Gilad at his most confident with a gun in one hand and an ax in the other, ready to hack, slash, shoot, and punch his way through his enemies.
3. Laudanum (Horrere Comic) It's pretty great when a creative team can tell a story that scares the pants off of you in half the space of a normal sized comic. That's what Laudanum does, going from zero to sixty on the terror odometer in no time at all. Set in Victorian England, the story follows Percy, who is mourning the death of his wife. We quickly learn that she died under mysterious circumstances, possibly involving demonic possession. Plus, Percy may have had a hand in it.
The closest cinematic comparison I can make to some of the horrors within is like a cross between The Exorcist and The Ring, but set in Victorian England. It doesn't have the stuffy nature of something like Downton Abbey or Pride & Prejudice. It gets right to the scares and does not stop.
2. Sink (ComixTribe) When I read Sink, I declared it the scariest comic I've read all year. I still maintain that as true. The anthology series is just getting started and only one issue has been released which you can read for free by getting in the van and signing up for the newsletter, but it has quickly shown it's going to leave a mark. Set in Glasgow, the book shows what happens when Allan misses the last bus home. He doesn't get into hilarious late night antics or meet a great girl. Instead, he runs from one horror to another, ending in mind-blowing scene of pure terror that practically knocks the wind out of you.
Writer John Lees and artist Alex Cormack create the standout character of the year with Mr. Dig, a mountain of a man with a fox mask and wielding a shovel in ways you never thought possible. He completely destroys a pack of thugs with this garden tool in increasingly bloody ways. This, coupled with a chilling early scene featuring a gore-filled bus, would have been enough, but then Lees and Cormack ratchet the scares up to eleven with a closing sequence that is pure nightmare fuel.
1. Clean Room (Vertigo) What to say about Clean Room? Out of all the comics this year, this one stuck with me the most. It's an incredible story with so many layers, exploring a strange self-help organization with ties to an even stranger race of aliens. That explanation does not do the book justice. It's a comic that needs to be experienced. There's a level of madness that permeates through these pages and you can't help but be drawn in as the terror amplifies again and again. Every time you think it's peaked, writer Gail Simone takes it even higher.
The artwork from Jon Davis-Hunt and now Walter Geovani is superb. It's well detailed and shocking, balancing between strong character moments and sequences of pure, unadulterated terror. Quinton Winter's colors intensify these scenes, especially those though set in the clean room itself. It's a pure white room devoid of almost any color, so you can imagine how it looks with blood splattered all over it. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Just do it with the lights on just in case.
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.