Halloween Reading recommendations, from our resident Comic ‘Expert’ Leon Evelake!-KingKellogg
Thor: Vikings (2003)
Writer Garth Ennis, Artist Glenn Farby, Publisher Marvel Comics Max imprint
Harald Jaekelsson leads a band of curse men that seem to represent the worse of the worse of the viking raiders character types. Having wandered at sea one thousand years they intend to take New York city virtually immortal and zombie like (though not quite zombies having never died “Never have I felt the cold embrace of soil”). Thor finding the curse empowered Jaekelsson more a match than expected will have to, with the help of Dr Stephen Strange, enlist some unusual reinforcements.
Fairly dark and easily one of the most violent and brutal Marvel comics I have read (even for the max imprint) Thor: Vikings is not a conventional superhero read. But it’s not without its moments of levity, dark humor or unexpected shout outs. Its well paced, well told and and with its brutal, unrelenting dark nature as well as Glenn Fabry’s somewhat creepy and gruesome art is perfectly suited for Halloween reading.
Punisher Max Welcome to the Bayou
Writer Victor Gischler , Artist Gorlan Parlov , Publisher Marvel Max Imprint
Frank Castle while en-route to deliver a two bit hood down south in exchange for information stops for gas at a strange rundown gas station at the same time as some college kids on spring break when he leaves first but can’t shake a bad feeling about the strange men running the station, he waits alongside the road to seem if they come along. When they don’t he decides it time to investigate and what he finds isn’t pleasant. Hillbilly cannibals, hyper aggressive women in short shorts, barques from hell and alligators all await the Punisher down on the Bayou. In this amusing and somewhat twisted but fairly original (for the Punisher at least) story Victor Gishler handles Frank Castle extremely well and frequent Garth Ennis collaborator Gorlan Parlov is in top Form. Gischler seemed to have had a simple plan with this Punisher story take the Punisher and place him in a horror story and it works wonderfully.
Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
Writer Roger Stern, Artist Mike Mignola , Publisher Marvel Comics
Every year on the summer solstice Victor Von Doom descended into the underworld to challenge Mephesto for the lost soul his mother. And every year for decades Dr Doom has failed. Now Dr Doom has been given a chance to ask a boon of Dr Stephen Strange and he is not going to waste it.
Honestly one of my favorite marvel comics and the best Dr Doom story ever told, Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment is a bit older but is well told clever and has just the right amount of dark subject matter and creepy hellish imagery to be amusing halloween read.
Lake of Fire
Writer Nathan Fairbairn, Artist Matt Smith, Publisher Image comics
In the 13th century during the Albigensian crusade young recently deployed crusaders find themselves facing off with more than just the “heretics ” of religious minority group the Cathars. Rather they are beset upon by strange vicious “monsters” who unbeknownst to them arrived from a large space vessel during the night.
Not a lot of stories manage a mix of science fiction in a historical setting particularly well, but Lake of Fire pulls it off quite well the creatures are played straight for horror.
Writer Tsugumi Ohba, Artist Takeshi Obata, Publisher Viz Media
Light Yagami a bored but brilliant high school student is disgusted with the injustice in the world around him. Ryuk is a Shinigami (a god of death) and is likewise bored. Ryuk has a solution to both their problems. He drops a Death Note in the mortal world. A book that so simply puts it “The human whose name is written in this note shall die”.. By chance Light Yagami finds the Death Note and the world change under the light of the justice of its new self appointed god.
The animated series is also enjoyable and effectively moody and has some inspired music but is undeniably weaker as a story is more over the top in execution.
Writer/Artist Kentaro Miura, Publisher Dark Horse
A Dark fantasy so bleak it should probably be called a black fantasy. Kentaro Miura’s medieval fantasy epic has its roots as much in the horror genera as fantasy and history. The opening Black Swordsman arc and Conviction arc in particular are good choices for Halloween reading.
The 1997 animated series is a legitimate masterpiece. It’s lighter on horror focusing more on themes of friendship and ambition in a medieval war setting. And while the horror elements are something of a slow build the end result is effective and horrific.
Writer/Artist Naoki Urasawa Publisher Viz Media
Dr Kenzo Tenma had just about everything a man ask for the skill and work ethic to rise up quickly at his job, a beautiful fiance, the respect of his boss. But one day he threw all away by not playing hospital politics. Refusing orders Tenma performs surgery on a young boy with a serious brain injury instead the Mayor, a “more important” patient who came in later whom he was ordered to perform on. Losing his position his fiance and any chance of advancement Tenma is content that he did the right thing saving the young boy’s life. Under mysterious circumstances the boy disappears and the men responsible for demoting Tenma and those taking his place die under suspicious circumstances. Years later Tenma once again crosses paths with the now adult young man, Johan, and learns he is responsible for those and many other murders. And while having been blamed for the murders himself and sets out to stop him while trying to avoid capture from an eccentric detective.
Even though a complex murder/conspiracy mystery, thriller series Naoki Urasawa manages to work in plenty of side stories and sort of sub episodes as Tenma meets and helps various people as he travels trying to unravel the mystery around Johan. The opening of the story (first volume or 1/3rd of the new volumes) in particular has a nice creepy vibe to it as do many of the later parts of the series concerned with the main arc.
Well plotted and characterized with biblical parallels and at times dark subject matter Monster is masterpiece of crime and conspiracy fiction.
There is also 74 episode animated adaptation by Madhouse. The adaptation is almost one to one and is extremely well directed with a haunting soundtrack and can not be recommended enough.
JLA (vol 1 ,18-19 )
Writer Mark Waid, Artist Howard Potter, Publisher DC comics
The Strange Case of Dr. Julian September
A short but amusing Justice league story sees the league contending with the fallout of a scientists ill thought out experiments to manipulate probability. Said experiment gone awry has created waves in reality. With reality changing and members blinking out of existence the League is left with only Synchronicity style recurring 7s as a clue as how to combat the threat to reality.
Not a conventional Justice League story it manages to have ominous feel to it giving the whole thing a stand out uniqueness and something of Twilight Zone or stand alone X Files episode quality to it .
JLA (vol 1,22-23)
Return of the Conqueror
Writer Grant Morrison, Artist Howard Potter, Publisher DC comics
The Justice League faces a invasion of large Starfish like aliens (similar to but not quite Starros). But the invasion is two pronged invading physically and in the dreaming. Daniel the Lord of the dream realm enlists the Justice League and guides several into the Dreaming to confront the invaders.
Noteworthy on its own for being one of the very few Dc stories allowed to use Neil Gaiman’s Sandman characters after the titles completion, “Return of the Conqueror” like “The Strange Case of Dr. Julian September” is shorter tale and is a bit stranger than convention superhero fare, but that’s the strength of both tales. Moody, atmospheric and a bit creepy it’s the perfect superhero Halloween read.
Batman vs Predator
Writer David Gibbons, Artist Andy Kubert , Adam Kubert Publisher Dc Comics, Dark Horse Comics
Sometimes everything you need is in the name. Jokes aside a concept pulled out out of fan debates and message boards does not necessarily mean a good comic, But David Gibbons (the artist and co-creator of the Watchmen) and the Kubert Brothers pull this off very well.
The set up is simple Batman is investigating gruesome murders that have been popping up in Gotham. This brings him into conflict with the extract terrestrial trophy hunter. What really make it work is how it’s done the Predator is treated as a serious threat one Batman will have to use all his considerable skills and resources to contend with in multiple encounters.
The Sandman; Vol 1 Preludes and Nocturnes
Writer Neil Gaiman Artist Various, Publisher Dc comics Vertigo Imprint
The entirety Neil Gaiman’s vast comic epic is definitely worth the read (even if a the Game of you is sluggish) its first volume is one best suited for a Halloween read. It’s not the best of the series that would probably be “Season of Mists”. But it’s dark creepy and at time brutal and while the rest of series focuses more on fantasy, allegorical meta writing themes, and the nature of dreams figuratively and literally the first volume is much more horror focused. The horror themes don’t go away entirely as the series goes but its front and center in volume one.
The series story sees the return of, after a time of captivity, Dream of the Endless. The lord of dreams seeks to return items lost to him in his absence and that task will take him into the remnants of his once great realm, into the depths of Hell to confront Lucifer himself, into a partnership with John Constantine and into conflict with the former Dr Destiny who has been wrought truly horrible things with a fraction of Dreams power.
Writer and Artist James O’barr
When Architect Eric Draven and his fiancee Shelly Webster are murdered Draven comes back as a avenging agent one year later.
Rawer and more emotionally intense than the movie adaptation of the same name The Crow comic is not a light read it is brutal and intense focusing as much on the stages of grief as the actual revenge. Its grim and less conventionally structured featuring intriguing elements that didn’t make the movie adaptations.
Lupin The Third Part 4 The Italian Adventure
Welcome to the Haunted Hotel!
Lupin and Jigen check into a castle that was converted into a hotel and is famous for being haunted…And perhaps having a lost treasure. This one’s less about horror and is more played for humor though it hits some sad notes as well.
Season one Episode 18
This Halloween episode of the shockingly good DC animated series finds Zatanna and Artemis being hunted by the mysterious villain Harm who seeks to kill them as practice for fighting their mentors. They receive unexpected help in escaping but all is not as it seems.
Well done and surprisingly dark Secrets is a stand out episode of a stand out series.
Season 2 Episode 7
Eye Of the Beholder
David Xanatos having given his fiance the Eye of Odin (a magical item) as an engagement gift has a bit of a problem. Said magical item has been turning Fox his oddly named lady love into a were beast. Unable to stop her himself he turns to his enemy Goliath for help in saving her.
Something of a traditional monster story recast with amusing twists (the villains love interest being the monster ) and set at on Halloween it’s a easy pick.