Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer(s): Rob Jones, Michael Sambrook, Mat Pringle
Artwork: Joe Becci, Mat Pringle, Alexa Renee
Release Date: 31st October 2017
The latest instalment of Tragic Tales of Horrere – Madius Comics’ SICBA Award-nominated horror anthology – is shrewdly marketed as a ‘Halloween Special’, and while we sadly aren’t treated to the latest chapter of Alisdair Wood’s truly stellar Grimoire, what we do get instead is a suitably eclectic trio of brand new horror stories. Which is pretty much all you can really ask for at this time of year, right?
The first tale, The Quiescent, is about as ‘Madius’ a horror story as you could possibly hope for. Featuring some striking grayscale artwork from Joe Becci, the story sees Rob Jones and Michael Sambrook putting a dryly comedic spin on the realm of Lovecraftian horror – a feat which is about as tricky as it sounds. The story sees a familiar Professor being summoned by an old friend to investigate a mysterious artefact, and… well… that’s about as far as I’m willing to go before I start delving into the realm of spoilers.
Becci’s art is impressive and expressive, capturing the creeping sense of dread throughout the early portion of the story before really cutting loose in the later stages and delivering the comedic sting with a flourish. A great opener then, and a perfect example of the unconventionally humorous approach to horror that frequently goes hand-in-hand with the work of Sambrones.
Up next we have The Raven and the Octopus, written and drawn by Mat Pringle, which features a young girl called Raven entering into an initially one-sided conversation with an old woman called Octopus while a small group of what look to be Inuit elders watch the events unfold. It’s unusual to see a story that doesn’t feature at least one of the Madius creative core, but Pringle does a solid job of establishing some high-level dread throughout the course of his story, particularly with the gradual reveal of “Octopus” herself.
The artwork is impressive, gradually building from an understated opening to a frenetic middle portion and a chillingly calm conclusion, shifting the panel sizes and the energy of the artwork as the horror builds. It’s undeniably creepy and visually striking, but features a bit of a confusing resolution. Maybe I’m just being thick, but I didn’t quite ‘get’ what the final line was alluding to. Regardless, a solid exercise in visual horror – my own thickness notwithstanding.
And finally, we have Do You Want To See?, which attempts to fill Grimoire’s role as headliner, providing the bulk of the page count for the issue. Alexa Renee provides the artwork this time around, deftly interweaving two seemingly connected tales set centuries apart but both based in the same location. Sambrones do a great job with the cadence of the story here, gradually building the pace as they flick back and forward between the two separate events.
It’s compelling stuff, although the conclusion perhaps felt a bit abrupt, to the point where I found myself searching for a final page that wasn’t actually there. That said, the story still works even with the abruptness, playing on the horror of the unknown and managing to deliver a suitably horrific read without having to explain too much about what’s actually happening. Always a bonus, in my book.
Ultimately then, while Grimoire is definitely notable by its absence, the Halloween edition of Tragic Tales of Horrere is still packed with chills, humour and striking artwork. Well worth a look for any and all horror fans out there.
You can pick up a digital PDF of Tragic Tales of Horrere #3 from the Madius Comics Store for the knock-down price of just £1.50, as well as copies of all of the previous issues. (Issues 1, 2 and the one shot Laudanum). Well, what are you waiting for?