Horror in comics is hard. You can’t use any of the tricks of films such as jump scares, music or overt misdirection and you don’t have the luxury of prose where you can subtly build atmosphere and really get into the heads of your characters. Well, unless it’s a massive manga such as the brilliant Uzumaki of course. That book has hundreds of pages though, the stories here average four or five.
I’ve had a go at writing horror comics myself and even have a published collection, well… “published” (don’t ask) but I hope this doesn’t read like me thinking I could do anything better. This is purely my reactions as a reader and fan of the genre. I know how hard it is to do but I’ll still be honest if some didn’t work for me as well as others. This is horror though so more than most genres I acknowledge it’s very subjective.
There’s a total of fifteen short stories in this volume so I hope you’ll forgive me if I keep the reviews to a few lines each. Artwork all as provided by Futurequake.
Dark Net by writer Jimmy Furlong and artist Andrew Hartmann
A cyberspace updating of a classic theme, well told and with art that successfully gets across the more abstract elements. Good opener with a great payoff.
The Coffin by writer Jason Brawn and artist David Spickett
A victorian mad scientist story with a hint of Army of Darkness to it, this one kind of hinges on you accepting someone conducting an experiment in the most un-needlessly dangerous way possible without any basic failsafes.The fact another character even suggests a precaution which is rejected highlights this even more and as such it all felt a little forced. Still a good idea though with nice stylised art to back it up.
Regular Deposits by writer Dave Wednesday and artist Kristian Carstensen
Clever idea told really well with dynamic artwork that has a great sense of storytelling to it. Manages to do a great setup, delivery and rug pull in only 4 pages. Anything else I’d say would be a spoiler. I’ll just say I liked the Pulp Fiction nod, I loved every panel of it and I’d have happily seen this as a published 2000Ad Terror Tale.
One Hell of a night by writer Chris Redfern and artist Johnathan Scott
A hungover banker wakes up and remembers the horrible things he did the night before…or does he? This one didn’t really work for me sorry. Seems to all be pinned on “he’s a banker so he’s a dick and deserves everything he gets” which felt a bit by the numbers. Art was ok but had weird lighting which made everyone look a bit plastic.
Jotun Fury by writer Karl Brandt and artist David Parsons
Fun little twist on the ice troll myth where a greedy explorer gets his comeuppance. Nice clean artwork and the only downside was the horror ending went a bit Monty Python in my head which is probably more my fault than theirs.
The Runaway by writer Marcello Bondi and artist Mattia Marini
A cool slice of Western action but a bit of a weird fit for this book as it is just that, a straight western. No horror or supernatural elements unless I missed them. As such I was kind of waiting for something that never happened so the end was a bit “oh…ok.”. REALLY cool artwork though so still an enjoyable read. Just more suited to Something Western than Something Wicked.
The Cottage In The Woods by writer Alec Robertson and artist Rui Mendes
A bit like Goldilocks and the three bears if Goldilocks was an asian immigrant in the Wild West. A nice and very different riff on the classic tale and with the requisite slice of weirdness I’d expect from this title. Moody artwork sells the story and my only nitpick would be a sequence where a rifle seems to turn into an umberella and then back for no reason.
Stupid Fuzzy Thing by writer Steven Fraser and artist Brian Rankin
A twisted take on the “Boy and his alien” story with a subtle but really dark streak running through it. Does a good job of subverting your zombie based expectations.
St@lked by writer Umar Ditta and artist Daniel Bell
Really liked this one. Cool story about a twitter stalked celebrity that keeps you guessing and works towards a really deranged ending. Really impressive artwork too that looks cool and tells the story perfectly. I’m still looking at that killer last panel…I should move on
Hurt by writer Matt Sharp and artist Aileen Oracion
A fallen angel recounts her history. Done well and nicely illustrated (congrats to the editing team as it’s a perfect creator pair up) but nothing we haven’t seen lots of times before. There’s a nice reveal at the end that you won’t see coming but other than that it’s not really anything new so struggles to be overly memorable.
He calls you home by writer Roddy McCance Sharp and artist Denis Vermesse
Probably the most out and out horror so far. A young girl camping with her parents gets chased through the woods by….things. Story wise there’s not much more than that but it’s more about the situation itself and your uncertainty as to what is going on mirrors that of the main character. Artwork seems to be a mix of regular and photomanipulation and works REALLY well. Proper fucked up. I approve.
The Civilised Hunt by writer Dan McKee and artist Carlos Angeli
After putting down a strip for relying on “bankers are twats” I probably shouldn’t really enjoy one that arguably does the same for fox hunters. I really liked this though. The main character’s constant quoting was a nice touch, the reality shift was handled really well and the last panel was clever without feeling contrived. Good comics. More great black and white art as well, which I should say is one of the things I’m loving about this collection. Black and white art rocks!
Sky Burial by writer Alec Robertson and artist Brian Corcoran
A Tibetan slave girl takes revenge on a corrupt monk but then has to deal with what he then becomes. This one was really impressive and has a good sense of varied dread throughout. A lot of story and detail packed into its six pages and while I’ll admit I did see the end coming the setup and execution of it were perfectly done. Artwork is also excellent and I think it’s a safe bet we’ll see the artist jump to mainstream before too long. Small press at its most professional looking.
Aokigahara by writer Travis Stunt and artist Luigi Criscuolo
Another out and out horror this one is DAAAAAARRRK and there’s a beautiful reveal mid-way that is actually startling. Not easy to do with static images so all credit to the script and art for managing that. Bleak, horrible, depressing…I loved it. Get these guys to do more please.
The Void Of by writer Rodd McCance and artist Denis Vermesse
A quick story of the “careful what you wish for” variety with a clever and original payoff and sold by really nice artwork. The splash page of the main character surrounded by “what if?” reflections is really striking and it was nice, seeing as this is from Futurequake, that we get a suitable sci-fi cameo included. A good end to the collection.
If I had to pick a favourite? Regular Deposits and He Calls You Home both really worked for me. Sky Burial felt like it’d been stolen from mainstream comics (apologies if that sounds like a small-press diss but you hopefully know what I mean). But for effectiveness and comics horror that’ll actually stick with me I have to go with Aokigahara. All in all though a hell of a collection and MORE than worth your £6.50.
You can pick up this and previous issues HERE or in person at Thought Bubble