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Spooky Halloween Reads

written by Jordan Cobb October 28, 2015

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Well hello there. I love Halloween. It’s honestly my favorite time of the year. With that comes new discoveries and re-watches of old favorites within the horror genre. This includes films and games like Resident Evil and my personal favorite horror franchise, Silent Hill. But as you know from me here, I love comic books and I think horror is a wonderful genre for comic books. Of course one of the essential things for horror is pacing and readers control the pacing, but I still say it works. Think of the horrifying images that be conjured where the only limit is the imagination of the artist. So with that said this is my personal selections for reading on all hallows eve.

If your favorite isn’t on here, feel free to mention it to me. There is a lot of horror comic books out there.

Scott Snyder

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Scott Snyder is one of the biggest names in comics with his well-acclaimed independent books and writing the adventures of Batman and it’s very clear from all his works he is a fan of horror. Snyder loves and knows the genre very well and he’s become a masterful storyteller. Snyder’s Batman has turned into a nail biting horror story whenever he’s involved the Joker, both in Death of the Family and Endgame. He writes Joker as a full force of nature that creeps under not only Batman’s skin but also the readers. His pacing with Greg Capullo’s art make it a very cinematic experience to read both stories. The lengths Joker goes to and what he does and the glee he has doing it make it sick, which means it’s amazing.

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The thing that got Snyder notice is his Vertigo series, American Vampire, which was a shot in the arm of the dearth of vampire fiction around the time of Twilight and True Blood. The series incorporates evolution within the species of vampires while being a sprawling tale of American history across various decades. Snyder’s put a lot of love and care into what he’s built and it continues to be fascinating. It’s a world that instantly hooks you and the characters of Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet help give the book life. Vampires in WWII, old Hollywood, SPACE! It’s exciting.

I’ve already raved about Wytches and still recommend that. Snyder’s other works include a story on a young musical prodigy going to find his father, but comes across a crazed cannibal in Severed and makes underwater terrifying with The Wake. Snyder’s capable storytelling with his flair for the unsettling has made him the name he is today. He’s also pretty amazing with characters and gets their insights perfectly, on the good and bad. Really can’t recommend him enough.

Nailbiter

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My favorite comic book right now is the Image horror book about a town in Oregon that has birthed 16 of the most notorious serial killers and the mystery as to why that is. Joshua Willamson and Mike Henderson’s intriguing tale is too fascinating to not read. The mythology that was quickly built up is magnificent. The mystery is what the book has at its center, but the characters really help to drive it so much. Nailbiter’s way of storytelling has made it stand out since its debut issue. This is a whole new world the readers will be transported to when opening the pages. The serial killers in this book are horrifying themselves, especially the titular nail biter himself. The care and detail given to the monsters of this book is pretty remarkable, to flesh out and further give life to the town. You will be immediately sucked in by this book. Please seek out the trades.

Vertigo

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The DC Comics imprint is mainly known for its more horror, supernatural, and out of this world type books starting with Alan Moore’s The Saga of Swamp Thing. Moore’s run on the book is legendary for being the first notable comic book work of Alan Moore which actually saved the book and creating said Vertigo line. Moore’s run is also legendary because it’s really damn good. It brought new life into the character and reinvented him. It brought a whole new level of mythology and much darker tales that still are very well-remembered today and hold up quite well. The book is very damn freaky and just strangely weird. Much of what’s loved about Moore and his work is very evident in this book.

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I kinda wrestled with putting The Sandman on here since that was bit more of a supernatural, dark fantasy, but going over it again, yeah it’s a full horror story. It helped give Neil Gaiman incredible success within comics with this mesmerizing and mind melting series. I seriously think your mind might melt when reading this. It more than transcended the fantasy genre and comic books itself.

Other noticeable titles include of course Hellblazer, the House of Mystery revival, Shade, the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Black Orchid, and more. A recent recommendation would be Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda that tells the story of Eve Coffin and her family history of witchcraft. Think about the Kennedys, but swap politics with witchcraft. It’s an immensely satisfying tale that brings its own rich history along with it.

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But also don’t forget Hellblazer at all. That’s my top Vertigo pick given how much it’s still loved today and the huge popularity of our favorite chain smoker, John Constantine.

Hack/Slash

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Part of doing this was to get me to read books I haven’t before and that includes this cult favorite about Cassie Hack and her partner/best friend Vlad. They go around and battle slashers after Cassie’s past experiences with her first one, her mother.

Hack/Slash is a very fun book. Its love of horror, slasher films in particular, and deep lore is fascinating. It’s also a damn funny book that knows how to mix its slaughter with its laughter, while also exploring the ever evolving mindset of Cassie Hack and her relationship with Vlad. The book even crosses over with Child’s Play and seems to make the slasher films we all know and love cannon within the world of this book and that’s pretty damn cool. I picked up the first omnibus of this, which is mostly the first one-shot stories that started the book, but they are highly recommended before reading anything else. It’s very well structured and nicely put together to tell all the stories in the order they were in. Seriously this is a bloody good read.

Locke & Key

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The same goes for Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key which tells the tale of a family that has to deal with a whole new world they never knew in the face of a recent tragic event. Joe Hill certainly learned from his dad, Stephen King as aside from some noticeable traits their writing share; Hill manages to outshine his dad. It’s a gripping tale about family and defining yourself in the face of tragedy, while being a horror story that when things get dark, they get dark. The book is fantastic in so many regards, most of all including Rodriguez’s perfectly suited and very expressional art work which helps craft the world of Locke & Key so well. Better yet, it’s a complete story with all of it collected in six trade paperbacks. Locke & Key is a gripping emotional tale while balancing itself with fantastical horror.

DC and Marvel classics

DC’s House of Mystery horror anthology and Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula are still highly regarded today.

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House of Mystery is one of the most noticeable anthologies in comics that told many frightening tales from some of the most noticeable names in comics. It was briefly resurrected at Vertigo back in 2008 and that comes highly recommended as well. House of Mystery further added the magical and supernatural world of DC Comics that still strives today. The House of Mystery location has become a DC mainstay and the books have featured stories with Martian Manhunter, Dial H for Hero, I, Vampire, and much more.

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Tomb of Dracula brought Dracula into the Marvel Universe and gave us the daywalker himself, Blade. The series admittedly doesn’t have a good start thanks to a clear lack of direction under Gerry Conway. The moment Marv Wolfman came in and introduced Blade, the series just took off from there and became memorable. The book played with horror very well and introduced memorable characters within captivating and engaging stories. I really have a great love of this book and I truly see it one of Marvel’s best they’ve ever done.

Robert Kirkman

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To recommend The Walking Dead feels like a cliché, but I still gotta recommend it. Arguably the best and without a doubt, the most successful, zombie comic book of all time boasts a huge cast of characters, horrifying villains, and creepy walkers. The Walking Dead has become one of the biggest mainstays in all of comic books and it’s still going strong today with no end in sight for now. Its exploration of human nature is still fascinating as it heads to 150+ issues and the horror remains as good as ever.

Kirkman was also responsible for Marvel Zombies, but I mainly recommend the first Marvel Zombies book. The following ones really hadn’t been up to par with the original story so if you wanna see Zombie Spider-Man, I say go with the original. It features some gruesome art, but also is a darkly entertaining book.

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Recently though I think Kirkman came out with his strongest series to date recently in Outcast, which is about Kyle Barnes. He’s a man plagued by demonic possession since a child, who seeks out answers that could mean the end of life on earth. Outcast has been a strong and deeply personal character study with Kyle at the heart, but also Reverend Anderson, who performed Kyle’s exorcism when he was a child. It’s a very atmospheric book with its dark setting, tone, and magnificent art and colors by Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser respectively. Outcast is a greatly bleak book that I can’t recommend enough.

Blackest Night

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DC’s own zombie book was a spectacular read that was a culmination of what Geoff Johns had built up with his legendary Green Lantern run. It’s a sign of more things to come, but is itself a wholly satisfying story that touches upon DC favorites alive and long passed. There was a surprisingly more emotional core at the heart of this story than thought of, but then again Geoff Johns’ hand penning it meant there would be major love thrown around for the lore of DC. He knew when to make the story suspenseful and scary as all hell. The care, love, and terror of this book is very evident throughout, though if possible, I’d say stay with the main story. If the bucks are there, all of it is well worth it. Plus the art work by Ivan Reis is just purely incredible.

Spread

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This one is a must read if you are at all a lover of John Carpenter’s The Thing. This is essentially telling the story of what if The Thing itself won after a parasite known as the Spread invaded Earth. It’s ten years later where an unlikely hero known as No helped out the mentally unstable Molly and baby Hope who might be a key figure in defeating the Spread. Like many post-apocalyptic tales you need to be immediately sucked into the world and that can happen more often than not, but you should also buy into it and for many I believe they will be. The story is about the slim chance and the power of hope within a dead world that’s barely staying alive. Justin Jordan keeps things so gripping, but the art of Kyle Strahm and the colors of Felipe Sobreiro that just makes this gruesomely horrifying. Spread is a book that is beautiful because of its ugliness and its spectacular. Seek this book out.

The New 52

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The New 52 brought a crop of amazing horror based and supernatural books, most notably being Jeff Lemire’s reimagining of Animal Man, which was one of the immediate standouts among the revamped line. His firm attention and focus on the character and its family mixed with horrifying and disturbing imagery of The Red was simply incredible. It was a book that would remain immensely entertaining throughout its entire run. Lemire made Buddy Baker his own and weaved a terrifying tale. It also weaved into Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing title, which I also recommend.

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Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. was another standout right away due to its incredibly different look and feel to it. Also done by Lemire and later Matt Kindt, it told the story of Frankenstein, courtesy of Grant Morrison, leading the Creature Commandos on the hunt to stop other worldly and monstrous threats. This book was fun and never stopped. The horror and fun that came off this book was truly incredible and planted its flag firmly among the line. Sadly cancelled only after 16 issues, it’s still well loved and regarded. The book did have some disturbing imagery among its subverted fun. Truly worth a read.

Justice League Dark was a book I debated putting on here given it was more supernatural since it dealt with more the magic side of DC. I think I can bend it a bit given it delved into horror pretty often. The book played around with the darker side and aspects of DC quite well while giving us a compelling team book that involved the likes of Zatanna, John Constantine, Deadman, Shade, the Changing Man, and more. The book explored such weird and strange corners that other heroes wouldn’t dare explore and balanced it with character dynamics. JLD was a book I always wanted and didn’t feel let down by.

Harrow County

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We wrap up with the most recent book from Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, Harrow County, a riveting tale of a young girl who comes to learn a dark secret about herself and the town she lives in upon the eve of her eighteenth birthday, which involves witchcraft.

Cullen Bunn crafts what might be his finest tale yet, be it for DC, Marvel, or his creator-owned work. The story feels instantly engaging and gripping from the first panel. It brilliantly sets up the events that set the book in motion and the rest of the first is excellently paced. It helps to further suck you into its surroundings. This is one of the most instantly engaging books on this list of recommendations. Seriously from the first issue you will be hooked into reading the rest of this book It is equal parts horrifying and character driven from the writing and terrifying and charmingly wonderful from the watercolor and atmospheric art of Tyler Crook.

Harrow County is one of the best crafted books to come out of the horror genre in a while and is a masterful, suspenseful, and deeply emotionally written story. I can’t recommend Harrow County enough for you to read this Halloween season.

Thanks for reading and hey hope to see you here next year for some more spooky reads.


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