Haunting Halloween reads

Carljoe Javier

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Up for a scary read that will give you the creeps and sleepless night? Here are comics we recommend.

FEEL LIKE GETTING SPOOKED? Curl up over the long weekend with these creepy reads. Cover image from https://www.imagecomics.com/comics/series/ten-grand

MANILA, Philippines – I’ve been getting into the mood for the Halloween season by catching up on comics filled with ghouls, creepers, monsters and sometimes just plain scary dudes. I’ll be sharing with you some books I’ve read recently that you might want to add to your reading list.

Part of my reading has been a visiting or re-visiting of the classics. I’ve been going through Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s “From Hell,” which is a chilling study of Jack the Ripper, an exploration of the psyche and society that would produce such a monster.

I went back to Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s “Arkham Asylum,” a psychological exploration of Batman set against McKean’s unsettling art. And no trip like this would be complete without some storylines of “Hellblazer.” 

The following list features some new titles, some that have just finished up. Some of these are still ongoing, but it isn’t too late to jump in and catch up.

These might not all be straight up horror comics, but they feature great new approaches to monsters and scary stories:

1. Locke & Key

WELL-CRAFTED. Friends have blamed it for nightmares. Cover image from http://www.idwpublishing.com/lockekey/

[See the original cover image here]

After the father of the family is murdered, his widow and children move back to the ancestral Locke home in the New England coast town of, yes, Lovecraft. As the children try to adjust to the new place and cope with their loss, they come to realize that there is something that has been waiting for them, and there are many malevolent forces which they must face.

This book gave me chills and friends I recommended it to have blamed it for nightmares. The series is winding down, but its volumes are available in trades. It is an engrossing, high-concept, incredibly well-crafted piece of sustained storytelling and world building. It’s the kind of book that people will be talking about for a long time.

2. The New Deadwardians

MORE MURDER MYSTERY THAN HORROR. This book makes zombies and vampires new and interesting. Cover image from http://www.vertigocomics.com/comics/the-new-deadwardians-2012/the-new-deadwardians-1

[See the original cover image here]

The title might sound a little gimmicky, but this book provides a cool twist to an interesting idea.

In a world filled with zombies, the upper crust of English society has infected themselves with vampirism. First, it was so they would have the power to fight back the zombie hordes. But now, 50 years since the war, class divisions are drawn with the rich living on while the masses struggle. Amidst a social structure that is crumbling, a vampire is found murdered, and not of the usual causes that a vampire can die.

More of a murder mystery than horror story, “The New Deadwardians” makes zombies and vampires new and interesting not by throwing them together, but using them to tell this story about social stratification and the way that power corrupts. It isn’t one of the best books on this list because some of the story telling could have been refined and certain revelations feel abrupt, but its concept alone makes it worth a read.

3. The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

HORROR MOVIE APPROACH. The ultra-violence can be a bit too much to stomach at times. Cover image from http://thestrangetalentoflutherstrode.com/

[See the original cover image here]

Luther’s a nerdy high school kid, but he reads a manual that gives him powers. He suddenly has super powers and he’s pretty much invulnerable.

The thing with this book is that it starts off sounding like a lot of other books, but it explores new ideas and new territory. Co-creator Justin Jordan writes in his notes that he imagined that anyone who puts on a mask and has scary powers might also have a connection to monsters like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhies.

This book explores the horrific implications of that. Its ultra-violence can be a bit too much to stomach at times, but it’s a horror movie approach to the traditional teen superhero narrative. It’s never dark for darkness’s sake, but instead it uses all these horror elements to examine this kind of story. The art is amazing and despite how dark and heavy it gets, it’s still an exciting read.

4. American Vampire

 THRILLING AND NEW. The monster is new, vital and exciting. Cover image from http://www.vertigocomics.com/graphic-novels/american-vampire-vol-1

[See the original cover image here]

A new iteration of the vampire emerges. In this period thriller, the American Vampire is more powerful than its European counterparts, and in the frontier and the developing American landscape of the late 1800s and early 1900s, we see the struggle that the new breed of creature takes.

It’s difficult to be inventive with a monster that seems has been done to death. Or undeath. But here .co-creators Scott Snyder and Stephen King give us thrilling new vampire stories that make the monster new, vital and exciting.

5. Rachel Rising

PRECISE CARTOONING. Jaw-dropping and gasping. Cover image from http://www.terrymooreart.com/

[See the original cover image here]

Rachel emerges from a shallow grave without memory of how she got there. She’s not dead, but she isn’t exactly alive either. As Rachel tries to understand what happened to her, a child in the same town starts going on a killing spree. And a mysterious woman appears to them both.

“Rachel Rising” is probably the most art comic book among those in this list. It comes from Terry Moore, of “Strangers in Paradise” fame. It is immediately intriguing and exciting, while always having time for quiet character moments.

The story starts small, but it gets bigger with each issue, and by the end of the first volume you realize how large the things at play really are. It doesn’t have the action or ultra-violence of other books, but it will still cause jaw-dropping and gasping because of the strength of the story and Moore’s precise cartooning.

6. Revival

 FEEL OF A TV DRAMA. We can latch on to and root for the characters. Cover image from http://revivalcomic.com/

[See the original cover image here]

The dead come back to life, but only on one day, and only in one small town. Now, that town has been quarantined by the government for study, the people are scared and what they are calling Revivals are being eyed with suspicion.

Amidst it all is the family drama of the lead cop on the case, her sheriff dad and her sister, who are all caught up in this world where the undead and spirits have suddenly appeared.

“Revival” is a page turner, and it’s got the feel of a compelling TV drama. The set-up gives the story lots of directions to go, and we’re provided with characters that we can latch on to and root for as they try and navigate this frightening new world where the horrific become part of daily life.

7. The Wake

NEW MYTHOLOGY. This book shows the evolutionary past of the Mermen. Cover image from http://www.vertigocomics.com/comics/the-wake-2013/the-wake-1

[See the original cover image here]

A group of scientists are brought to a secret location to study something. They aren’t told what it is until they get there. It’s a Merman, but this Merman has no plans of playing nice.

It uses its powers, which include the ability to manipulate people’s minds, to get free. Now, underwater and in an enclosed space, the scientists are trapped as all things go to hell.

This book is still ongoing, it has a few more issues before it concludes. But thus far it has presented amazing ideas, flashing forward into the future and showing the evolutionary past of the Mermen, all of it creating a new mythology. All of this is interspersed with a pulse-pounding survival horror main story.

8. Ten Grand

SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATOR. The hero fits into the modern times. Cover image from https://www.imagecomics.com/comics/series/ten-grand 

Joe’s been working on the side of angels (though they aren’t the nice beautiful angels we hoped they would be). He is a former mob enforcer now fighting against demons for little 5 minute visits to the love of his life, who is in heaven but whom he can never join permanently.

But a larger, more powerful evil returns, and Joe just might not get out of this one.

The supernatural investigator isn’t a new character, but with J. Michael Straczynsci’s new take on him, and Ben Templesmith’s striking style, “Ten Grand” gives us a character who’s like John Constantine for the digital age. It’s only a few issues in, but this book is showing that it is building a magical world to be explored and it will definitely give you some chills.

Perhaps where it is most powerful is in making an old love story cliche (the bad guy who goes good for the right girl) feel believable. We are quickly invested in the relationship. It’s that light amidst all the darkness. – Rappler.com


Carljoe Javier

Carljoe Javier is at the faculty of English and Comparative Literature at UP. He is also an author, and among his books are The Kobayashi Maru of Love, the new edition of which is available from Visprint Inc. His upcoming Writing 30 will be available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n and flipreads.com

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