Written by Dusty Good
With the spookiest night of the year looming just days away comic fans need to have a stockpile of scary-good stories ready to read after they’ve finished with their trick or treating. So put on your favorite ghoulish mask, touch up your make-up, and open your treat bag as I hand out five chilling books you need to read at the witching hour on Halloween.
* Note- Old school anthologies like Eerie and Creepy have been bypassed to focus on single trades. Brands like EC have been omitted to build a more contemporary and current lists for readers. Yes, I know that these comics are classics and deserve a place on every horror list, but we are keeping it current*
5.—The Walking Dead Vol. 1 “Days Gone Bye”
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Tony Moore
Publisher: Image Comics
It doesn’t matter if you are reading this for the first time or have this trade memorized by heart; the epic that is TWD starts here as sheriff Rick Grimes awakes from a coma to a world that is a nightmare reflection of the one he remembers. It’s impossible not to feel a chill up your spine as Rick comes to the mind shattering revelation that the dead are alive and walking about.
While fans of the television show have been lucky enough to see this drama play out on the screen there is still something captivating about seeing it on the page. Do yourself a favor and check this book out if you haven’t read it or been putting it off, but for most fans it’s a reason to climb back into our own collections and get zombie fever all over again!
4.—Afterlife with Archie
Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
Remember all those fun Archie comics you read when you were a kid? Yeah, that is nothing close to this living nightmare. Aguirre-Sacasa takes all of our beloved characters from Riverdale and throws them headlong into a zombie apocalypse. It’s disturbing on a level that goes all the way back to your childhood to see characters like Jughead, Moose, and Fred Andrews transformed into walking killing machines.
Perhaps one of the more chilling aspects of this comic is that the zombies can think. By the end of the first volume we see a horde of the undead being led by Jughead. It’s not confirmed outright be he sure has the appearance of being able to understand his plight but unable to control himself.
I also want to point out here that this is comic is not just all blood and thrills. Much like its Walking Dead counterpart, this comic thrives on the human moments that happen in-between action. It’s high drama. It also carries within its pages one of the saddest deaths of a beloved pet we may ever read. An unexpected offering from an unexpected publisher will leave you hungry for more zombies.
3.—Nailbiter Vol. 1
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Mike Henderson
Publisher: Image Comics
Imagine a town in America that is full of some of the worst serial killers in history. That’s the underlying plot to this first installment of Nailbiter. When a detective goes missing looking into a possible disappearance that involves a released known serial killer named Edward Charles Warren, AKA The Nailbiter, (A nick named he earned through the media because he chewed off his victim’s fingers) his partner shows up in town looking for answers. Instead he discovers a mystery that sets the town on fire. This is a horror comic that reads like a horror movie. The plot is tight, the characters are well rounded, the setting is eerie and the action is gripping.
I don’t want to spoil the plot but instead focus on the premise. Imagine if guys like Gacy, Gein, Dahmer, and all the rest happen to share a hometown? The question has always been what makes someone become a serial killer, this series might not have the answers, but it sure plays hell with that question.
2.—30 Days of Night
Written by: Steve Niles
Art by: Ben Templesmith
There is a little hamlet in the Northern reaches of Alaska known as Barrow. What makes Barrow unique is that it is so far north that for one month out of the year the town doesn’t see the sun. Welcome to a Vampire’s paradise.
This title is the oldest on the list. A ton has been written about this series over the decade and a half that it has been around and I’m sure even more ink will be spilled in honor of a fantastic work of horror as time passes. Niles found a way to make vampires even more evil by using simple science and nature to remove the one thing we have always counted on in every other vampire story, the sun. It’s complete darkness for a month. No hope of rest, no hope of rescue, no hope at all; as a group of bloodsuckers openly wonder through the streets of this tiny town killing anyone and everyone they can find. It’s only through the efforts of local lawman Eben Olemaun that anyone MIGHT have a chance to get out alive. This is a modern horror comic classic that needs to be read by every fan out there.
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Jock
Publisher: Image Comics
There is scary and then there is haunting. Rarely in life can you find a tale that successful crosses the line to achieve both, and yet somehow, against the odds, Snyder and Jock achieve that balance. The end result is one of the most disturbing and upsetting comics to be produced in decades.
The story is deceptively simple. The Rooks arrive in a quaint town in New Hampshire trying to start over after their Daughter is suspected of killing a fellow classmate. Little does the family know that what they have stepped into is far older and far more treacherous than they could ever imagine.
Under the trees of the surrounding forest live a group of beings known as the Wytches, evil but powerful creatures that grant those that help them boons of favor. All they want are a few of the townsfolk to survive on… Just a lite snack.
The tone of this comic hinges on the surreal and the insane; one moment you question a character’s grip on reality, the next you’re questioning your own. It’s this quality that keeps you so deeply immersed that there are moments that you will find yourself holding your physical breath.
This is one to share with your family and friends this holiday season, but be warned… you might lose some sleep to the Wytches. BWHAHA- HA-HA
Honorable Mention— I would like to close on what I feel is a comic that is only for the extreme and hardcore readers out there that might be looking for something a little less intriguing and lot more brutal. So if you are after no-holds-barred blood and guts I’ve got you covered BUT!!! I must say this, this comic series is NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART OR THE WEAK OF STOMACH. This is an adult comic and should NEVER be read by children under any circumstances. I’ve warned you.
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Jacen Burrows
Publisher: Avatar Press
These are comic books at its lowest form. There is no artistic message to be found in the Crossed, there is no character driven plot. There is only blood, guts, death, and the Crossed. The best way to describe this series is to think of it as The Walking Dead with the volume turned up to 1000. This series is nothing but brutal murder, rape, cannibalism and every other vile act you can think of. The art is graphic, the language is graphic, the story is scarring to the soul of the reader who is brave (or stupid) enough to open its pages.
You may think that this sounds cool, but trust me dear reader, you will not be able to handle the Crossed. It is built solely to disgust and defile. That’s it. It doesn’t carry one single redeemable quality. The book depicts the most violent and bloody deaths you can imagine, there is rape of men and women galore, there is language that would make a sailor blush in shame.
The plot of the Crossed is simple: the story follows survivors dealing with a pandemic that causes its victims to carry out their most evil thoughts. Carriers of the virus are known as the “Crossed” due to a cross-like rash that appears on their faces. It’s not zombies but insane humans that are hell-bent on destruction and mayhem.
I would advise only the bravest of readers to undertake this book. How this comic is still sold legally in the United States is a mystery to me, but it’s there if you want it.
I will give you one small sample of the gross insanity that lies in the early part of this comic’s run. An infected member of the Crossed is driving a car down a freeway, there is a baby in the backseat. The Crossed member reaches in the back, grabs the child and flings it out the window into oncoming traffic and we watch as the infant’s body dissolves into a mist of guts… panel…by…panel. That’s just the very tip top of the iceberg. If you found that revolting you would be better off never opening a Crossed comic. You will despise what is inside.