Shocktober Reads: 10 Comics to tide you over till Halloween

Indisputable fact: 2017 has been a landmark year for horror comics. Do I sense a modicum of doubt among you, faithful readers? Well then, here are some examples to back up my claim:

Marvel has released (or re-released) more horror comic reprints this year than any in recent memory. Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Monsters of Marvel, Monsters Unleashed, with more yet to come.

DC has reprinted classic titles such as Night Force and early issues of Swamp Thing in Omnibus format, as well as rejuvenating their Vertigo Horror line.

Image has inundated the market with horror titles. From Southern Cross to Plastic to Babyteeth, the publisher champions horror like no other.

Dark Horse published some of their best and most critically acclaimed horror comics this year, with titles such as Shadows of the Grave, Harrow County and Black Hammer leading the way.

Archie Comics has successfully reinvented themselves as a horror publisher. With Afterlife With Archie being yesterday’s news, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has stepped up and taken the reins, horrifying classic Sabrina fans and drawing horror nuts into the Riverdale (or Salem) fold.

– Publishers such as Aftershock and Zenescope have been churning out horror titles like there’s no tomorrow.

Boom! Studios has fostered a healthy line of horror comics, with Clive Barker’s Hellraiser leading the pack.

Dynamite Entertainment has brought back the quintessential horror heroine Vampirella to the comic book page.

Albatross Press, the brain-child of Goon creator Eric Powell, has hit the big time with their phenomenally popular titles Hillbilly and ‘Namwolf, among others.

Avatar Press saw the conclusion of probably the greatest horror title they’ve ever published this year with the final arc of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence.

With all this high-quality horror out there, what bears notice, especially so close to Halloween? Which titles can sate a reader’s taste for horror before October 2017 fades into non-existence? With roughly 10 days left until Halloween, I have decided to list 10 comics worth reading before the 31st. Here they are!

1. Underwinter

Ray Fawkes’ Underwinter tells the story of a quartet of musicians who score their dream gig. They have to perform privately for some wealthy patrons who have some bizarre stipulations, such as forcing the performers to wear blinding masks. This all seems fine to the quartet – cold hard cash wins the day, right? WRONG. Things soon get bloody. People are tortured. And there’s an inordinate amount of screaming. Fawkes is the writer, penciller and colorist on this, and the result is a type of ethereal nightmare that comes to gruesome life on the comic book page. Buy the first six issues on ComiXology or as floppies; the paperback is slated for release on Oct. 31st, so you won’t get this puppy before All Hallows’ Eve unless you dip into the digital.

2. Redneck

Writer Donny Cates and artist Lisandro Estherren take us for a bloody ride in Image’s newest vampire series. Set in a small town deep in the heart of Texas, Redneck tells the story of the Bowman family, local entrepreneurs, good ol’ boys and cow-blood slurping nosferatu who want nothing more than to live a life of abstinence. That is, until some humans start messing with them. Heads roll and jugulars erupt as the series hits its stride by issue 3 and never looks back. Redneck #1-6 can be found on ComiXology. Tpb set to be released on Halloween. Yeehaw!

3. The Belfry

Another must-have from Image Comics. Gabriel Hardman (Star Wars Legacy II, Planet of The Apes: Cataclysm and Invisible Republic) writes and draws a haunting single-issue story of plane crash survivors who are terrorized and hunted by bat-like demonic humanoids (ok, let’s just call ‘em Vampires for short). It has one of those Ouroboros endings, circular and disturbing. Black and white art throughout, but with Hardman that’s a plus. It’s easy to find on ComiXology or at any local comic store. Hopefully Gabriel revisits this universe again, then we might even get an ongoing out of it.

4. Babyteeth

Aftershock Comics’ Babyteeth answers the question “What would life be like for the sixteen year-old mom of the antichrist?” Writer Donny Cates (who also writes the aforementioned Rednecks) and artist Garry Brown serve up plenty of chills and oh sh**t moments. The main character Sadie is fully realized and you just can’t help wanting to root for her, even though she’s the mother of all evil. Five issues in and Cates and Brown are killing it on story and visuals. Due to be released in paperback in December, but available in floppies and on ComiXology, this is a title horror fans can’t afford to miss.

5. The Unsound

Set in a psychiatric hospital where something sinister is going on (which is de rigueur for these hospitals anyway), writer Cullen Bunn and artist Jack T. Cole seamlessly establish a palpable sense of dread and eeriness right from the start. It’s not all psychological disorders and mental illness though. Saint Cascia Hospital for the Mentally Disturbed has some genuinely terrifying supernatural forces that prompt main character Aisli to flee below ground. There she discovers a world of secrets and depravity the likes of which haven’t been seen since the heyday of the Marvel Bullpen. Boom Studios certainly hit a home run with this one. ComiXology has issue 1-4. So far, no news on when the first trade paperback will be released.

6. My Favorite Thing is Monsters

The best book of the year, hands down. Emil Ferris has created a world of diary entries, sketchbooks, murder mysteries, and the unbolted imagination of a child running wild on the comic book page. The writing is top notch, but the art is the true heart of My Favorite Thing is Monsters. The description ‘lavishly illustrated’ doesn’t do it justice. An unequivocal triumph of the comic book form. Mr. Ferris should be canonized. It’s available as an oversized well-bound paperback, but for the love of Cthulhu DON’T read this digitally. This needs to be enjoyed in a more physical capacity in order to experience the feel of secretly reading someone else’s monster diary. Should make a clean sweep at the next Eisner Awards.

7. Victor LaValle’s Destroyer

Newsflash! The Frankenstein Monster has had enough and is on a bloodthirsty quest to destroy humanity. In a nutshell, this title is a continuation of Mary Shelly’s novel, but with something new added to the mix – a female descendant of Frankenstein! Ok, so this might not quite be as new as I thought, but the story is full of intrigue and the visuals are pleasingly disturbing. This title pulls no punches, and after 5 issues I’m begging for more. The paperback will only be available next year, but ComiXology should provide you with all the binge-reading your horror-saturated mind can stand. Lap up the carnage!

8. Clean Room

How to describe this title accurately? Ok, let’s see: Self-help guru Astrid Mueller battles the unspeakable entities that lurk just beyond our collective sanity in her specially constructed ‘clean room’ where victims and those possessed by said entities are brutally interrogated by Astrid and her team of nasties. Without a doubt the best Vertigo title on the stands at the moment. Writer Gail Simone is firing on all cylinders with this one, and the art by sporadic 2000AD penciller John Davis-Hunt is masterful. Available digitally and as three trade paperbacks, collecting issues 1 through 18.

9. Southern Cross

This is the closest you’ll get to Event Horizon in comic book form. (It’s kinda like Ripley from Alien VS the eponymous ship). That’s all that needs to be said about this title. I mean, c’mon, it’s by artist-turned-writer Becky Cloonan, a household name in the comic crafting industry, and that should be reason enough to read it. Three trade paperbacks make up the entire series to date, and are easy to come by. Image Comics have yet another winner on their hands.

10. Beowulf

A visual masterpiece. Spanish artist David Rubin shines in this atmospheric, dark tale that sticks pretty close to the source material, but does so in stunningly beautiful illustrations and a story that runs at a breakneck pace. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the disturbing image of Grendel sporting a massive erection as he goes toe to toe with a naked Beowulf. Sick! David Rubin, you need some serious therapy, mi amigo. This book is a visual feast! And a beautifully bound hardcover to boot. Possibly the runner-up for best Graphic Novel of the Year, right after My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

With that, I bid you a fond adieu, determined readers. I hope this list helps, and even turns some of you horror film fans on to the fear-inducing four-color terror that is The Horror Comic. Feedback is most welcome. Vilify me at your leisure. Adios!

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