It’s that time of year again, when the grocery store is full of costumes, candy, and Christmas decorations. That’s right, it’s Halloween!
A lot of people are no doubt planning on watching some extra spooky films this year, like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and my favorite, Elvira’s Haunted Hills.
But for my money the best thing to do to give yourself a real fright this Halloween season, is to grab some spooky comics and read them in the dark. We’re living in a new golden age of horror comics, with notable horror lines from Vault, Image, and even DC. So let’s look at some of my all time favorites, and see if there is something to give you a thrill and a chill this Halloween!
First up, one of my all time favorites: Black Stars Above
Here’s the blurb:
LET THE BLACK STARS GUIDE YOUR WAY.
The year is 1887 and a storm brews. Eulalie Dubois has spent her entire life tending to her family’s trapline, isolated from the world. A chance at freedom comes in the form of a parcel that needs delivering to a nameless town north of the wilderness. Little does Eulalie know, something sinister hides in those woods and it yearns for what she carries. A chilling historical cosmic horror tale of survival from the deranged minds of Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs, Marvelous X-Men) and debut artist Jenna Cha.
Black Stars Above holds the dubious title of being one of the most pirated comics of 2020, with 35,000 illegal downloads in its first 5 months, and that actually really sucks, because books like this from small publishers in a niche genre need all the financial support they can get. Comics are not movies, they don’t have huge studios behind them and make more money off of merchandising than they do the original. When you pirate comics you are not stealing from big corporations flush with cash, you’re hurting small creators who are trying to make a living off their passion. So stop it!
TED Talk over, now on with the review.
Black Stars Above is good, real good. If you like creepy, Lovecraftian story telling, with a healthy dose of body horror and madness, this is the amazing and beautiful book for you. This book bothered me so much that I would only read the later issues during the day because of how it creeped me out, and if that’s not the highest praise I can give it then I do know what is.
The trade is available everywhere for only $15! Support small publishers and local shops, and order yourself a copy today!
Up next, some more historical horror with Sea of Sorrows from IDW.
Here’s the blurb:
Plunge headfirst into the icy waters of dread in this graphic novel of deep sea adventure with a horrific twist!
In the aftermath of the Great War, the North Atlantic is ripe for plunder by independent salvage crews. When a former naval officer hires the SS Vagabond, he leads the ship to a sunken U-boat, and a fortune in gold. Tensions mount as the crew prepares to double cross each other, but the darkness of the ocean floor holds deeper terrors than any of them have bargained for!
From the creative team behind the Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror graphic novel Road of Bones comes an all-new tale of bone-chilling terror!
IDW is such a strange publisher to me. Predominately focused on licensed titles, every now and then they release a completely unique mini series like this one, and they seem to be fantastic. I really hope that they continue to take chances on books like Sea of Sorrows because this is just a great, creepy book with some amazing art that really scares. I had legit jumps as I flipped through some of the pages, and there is a really fun, really creepy feel to the pages themselves, which seem to drip with black ink so much I kept checking my fingers to see if some had smeared off on them.
Stylistic, atmospheric, and completely engrossing. The trade doesn’t come out until November, but the individual issues are worth the hunt to find them!
The next one is a bit of a cheat, since it technically isn’t from an indie publisher, but it is from an indie style line from DC Comics. Yeah, it’s that’s time folks, it’s time for The Nice House on the Lake from DC Comic’s Black Label Series
Here’s the blurb:
Everyone who was invited to the house knows Walter—well, they know him a little, anyway. Some met him in childhood; some met him months ago. And Walter’s always been a little…off. But after the hardest year of their lives, nobody was going to turn down Walter’s invitation to an astonishingly beautiful house in the woods, overlooking an enormous sylvan lake. It’s beautiful, it’s opulent, it’s private—so a week of putting up with Walter’s weird little schemes and nicknames in exchange for the vacation of a lifetime? Why not? All of them were at that moment in their lives when they could feel themselves pulling away from their other friends; wouldn’t a chance to reconnect be…nice?
I went into James Tynion IV’s The Nice House on the Lake with no clue what it was about, and not really expecting there to be much here to like. I’m pleased to say I was very, very surprised with the quality of the story and the legitimate scares the book provides.
Now, a warning, while the majority of the horror and scares from this book come from the emotional pain and suffering of the people trapped in the house, there are some pretty gruesome bits of body horror that honestly might be a little more over the top than it needs to be. In some places it does feel like it’s trying a bit too hard to be scary, and so becomes a bit more ridiculous than horrific, but those moments are few and far between, and overall the story is engrossing and immersive.
The Nice House on the Lake is taking a break at the half way point, so go out and grab the first six while you can, because this one is definitely going to take off soon, and you’re going to want to have these issues in your longbox.
And speaking of James Tynion IV, I of course need to plug one of my all time favourites once again with The Department of Truth.
Here’s the blurb:
Cole Turner has studied conspiracy theories all his life, but he isn’t prepared for what happens when he discovers that all of them are true, from the JFK assassination to flat Earth theory and reptilian shapeshifters. One organization has been covering them up for generations. What is the deep, dark secret behind the Department of Truth?
Bestselling writer JAMES TYNION IV (Batman, Something is Killing the Children) debuts his first Image ONGOING SERIES alongside breakout artist MARTIN SIMMONDS (Dying is Easy)!
So yeah, I’m never going to stop praising this book. The art, the story telling, the world building, The Department of Truth is perfect in almost every way. And one thing that I don’t talk about enough is that this book is also really, really scary, with some of the most disturbing imagery in comics today. I gave the first trade to my wife and halfway through she told me it was bothering her too much to keep reading, and this is from a woman who devours serial killer shows the way I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons.
Volume 2 is coming out soon, so if you slept on this book you’re going to want to run out and snag Volume 1 as well. Trust me, The Department of Truth is the book to read!
Last up, one of my favorite supernatural action books, Once and Future
Here’s the blurb:
When a group of Nationalists use an ancient artifact to bring a villain from Arthurian myth back from the dead to gain power, ex-monster hunter Bridgette McGuire escapes her retirement home and pulls her unsuspecting grandson Duncan, a museum curator, into a world of magic and mysticism to defeat a legendary threat.
Bestselling writer Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Star Wars) and Russ Manning Award-winning artist Dan Mora (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Klaus) explore the mysteries of the past, the complicated truths of our history and the power of family to save the day – especially if that family has secret bunkers of ancient weapons and decades of experience hunting the greatest monsters in Britain‘s history!
Sometimes when you read a book, it reaches a point where you think, well, they’ve taken this concept about as far as they can. I’m sure the story is now over. Usually that feeling is right, and the series either wraps up, or continues to limp along way past its prime (looking at you Walking Dead)
After Volume 1 of Once and Future wrapped I thought the story was over and done, and that they didn’t really have anywhere else to go, and honestly, had Gillen and Mora wrapped after that they would have been able to say that they wrote a really great, really compelling story that satisfied the reader and left them wanting more.
But the story did continue, and honestly, I’m glad it did. Gillen did what all good sequels should do, he expanded the world but kept the focus on the core relationship between the characters, meaning that the threats got bigger, the danger got more…um…dangerous, and yet the story never loses focus on what actually matters, the relationship between the main characters.
I really love Once and Future, and while it is not nearly as frightening as some of the other books on this list, if you love supernatural thrillers like Buffy and Supernatural, but want them to have a bit more literary merit, this is definitely the book for you.
So there you go folks, five great books perfect for Halloween. Ask your LCS for a copy, and let me know what you think. Until next time, stay safe!