If you’ve been following the Big Comic Page for any length of time, you’ll be acutely aware of one simple fact – we love horror.
So, with Halloween right around the corner, we decided that now would be the perfect time to take a look back at some of the best horror comics that have hit the shelves during the last ten months.
To that end, we asked some members of our team to break down their favourite horror comic of the year so far, and are thrilled to present to you our list of the most unnerving, disturbing and shockingly memorable horror tales of 2016… so far, anyway.
Take a look, and let us know your own top horror pics in the comments.
Ceej Picks… The Dark & Bloody (Vertigo Comics)
The Dark & Bloody, from writer Shawn Aldridge and artist Scott Godlewski, tells the story of war veteran Iris Genty who returns from Iraq plagued by the horrors he and his unit were a party to, and struggling to care for his family with his limited skills. Turning to brewing moonshine for the locals, Iris gradually becomes aware of a vengeful, malevolent force stalking him – a force that may be tied directly to his questionable wartime actions.
The six-part series builds impressively, gradually ramping up the tension and creeping sense of dread as the otherworldly consequences of Iris’s actions in Iraq come back to haunt both he and his family. Aldridge provides a masterclass in not giving things away too soon, using a profoundly unsettling ‘feather’ motif during the first few issues to suggest the horrors to come, and then turning things over to Godlewski for one of the most genuinely unnerving ‘body horror’ reveals since John Carpenter’s the Thing.
For me, horror comics are always defined by their ability to establish a mood and provide thoughts, ideas and images that gradually crawl under your skin. There are no jump-scares here, no crashing soundtracks to shock the audience, and in a medium where it’s often a case of ‘too much’ or ‘too little’, The Dark & Bloody serves as an almost perfect example of how to do comic book horror just right.
Chris D Picks… Providence (Avatar Press)
Acting as both sequel and prequel to Neonomicon, Providence is the latest foray into the mythos of HP Lovecraft for writer Alan Moore and artist Jacen Burrows. Robert Black, a reporter who quits his job in preparation for the writing of his first novel, takes a cross-country trip across America trying to track down a copy of ‘Hali’s Booke of Wisdom’, an ancient tome said to contain arcane secrets. His travels bring him into contact with various members of the secretive occult group ‘The Stella Sapiente’ and – in the mould of a classic HPL protagonist – the walls of reality start to slowly crumble around him as his new-found knowledge leaves him teetering on the brink of madness.
Moore himself has said that horror audiences have grown far too comfortable with Cthulhu and his ilk and this twelve-part series – with 2 issues still to go as of writing – brings the horrors and “nameless rituals” the notoriously-squeamish Lovecraft merely hinted at screaming into sharp, monstrous focus.
Whereas the creators previous collaboration was more in keeping with the graphic blunt-force trauma of publisher Avatar’s usual output, Providence has a slow-burn dread and nuance far beyond its sister titles. But make no mistake; this is definitely an adults only title, with certain scenes guaranteed to provoke strong reactions in those who find sexual violence particularly hard to handle.
As with Moore’s other horror masterpiece ‘From Hell’, it’s a series that can be read on multiple levels; from a critique and appreciation of HPL’s works, his unsavoury worldview and those of early 20th century America in general, to the transformative power of fiction and – perhaps most importantly – as a deeply effective and disturbing horror story.
A series that so far has made light work of the “Watchmen of Horror” tag given it. It is seriously that good and easily the most genuinely nightmarish horror comic I’ve read this year.
Rebecca Picks… House of Penance (Dark Horse Comics)
House of Penance is psychological horror at its best. The series, penned by Peter J. Tomasi, carves fiction from truth in its interpretation of the construction of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The house, which was in constant development from 1884 to 1922 under the guidance of Sarah Winchester, is today a major tourist haunt, legendary for its uncanny design: doors, stairs and windows lead to some very unexpected places, often nowhere…
Sarah Winchester was the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester and inherited his fortune from the Winchester Arms Repeating Company when he died, along with their young daughter, of tuberculosis in the late 1880s. Sarah was feverishly determined to erect the house after she visited a medium when trying to contact her family. Supposedly, her encounter triggered an obsession with a blood curse laid on the family due to the amount of deaths brought about by the infamous Winchester rifle.
Tomasi uses these facts to fuel the intricate world of the series. Sarah employs men who have all taken lives and are seeking atonement, just as she mourns both her family and the spirits of those murdered with Winchester rifles. Her employees must work non-stop on the house in shifts as the din keeps away the souls of the dead.
Warren Peck, troubled by the souls of those he has claimed, both in the military and for money, stumbles across the mansion. He and Sarah share a touching relationship as they both confront the ghosts of their pasts.
This brings us around to Ian Bertram’s artwork, which is hauntingly beautiful, uniquely styled and harrowing in its execution of a truly sombre story of love, loss and absolution. Dave Stewart’s colours are bold and striking against Bertram’s fine detailing, creating a jarring, ethereal piece of art.
History, mystery and haunting melancholy: House of Penance is horror with heart.
Andrew picks… Second Sight (Aftershock Comics)
I’m not a huge fan of ‘shock’ horror. Sure it has its place and it can be very good, but it doesn’t really scare me. Psychological horror, or the horror of inevitability, now that gives me the absolute creeps. That’s why I l love films like The Thing and Se7en, or books like Robopocalypse as they can unnerve me in a very real sense, and that’s why I’ve picked David Hine’s Second Sight as my horror pick of 2016.
The story combines a very real thing – a child pornography ring and a deranged serial killer – with something on the ‘fringes’ of possibility: remote viewing. Ray Pilgrim can remote view when under the influence of mushrooms, the crux is he’s attuned to serial killers when it happens. He gains notoriety helping the Police hunt down these killers until he links to a killer known as The Reaper. The Reaper seems to be aware of the link and uses it to taunt Ray, making him witness all his killings while giving Ray a chance to catch him, but Ray is always too late. That is, until the events of what is come to be known in the media as The Bloody Chamber. Ray’s life is destroyed, he vows never to use his ‘gift’ again and The Reaper escapes unpunished and goes dormant. Years later Ray’s estranged daughter is a fifth estate reporter, and investigating a child pornography ring known as ‘The Wednesday Club,’ a group comprised of some of the most powerful people in British Society. To protect his daughter and try to uncover the truth of what happened to him Ray must confront his past and use his gift again, just as The Reaper resurfaces.
It is a masterclass in storytelling. David Hine has brilliantly set out his stall over this opening gambit and has weaved a suspenseful and tangling tale that generates a very real feeling of fear for the safety of Ray and his associates against an all-powerful cartel of sycophants that can act with impunity. Not content with this aspect of psychological thrashing of our main protagonist The Reaper character also plays with Ray’s sanity as he relives his past failures while attempting to maintain a hold on the present and what is real. It’s this tentative twist on reality that gets me, you know it’s a story but it’s not that removed from possibility, and what could be more scary or fragile that being trapped by your grasp on your own sanity? If you’ve not read this I would urge you to check it out, the first TP should be on the horizon very soon.