2020 has been the scariest year on record for many people, but that doesn’t mean comic book fans don’t still want to be creeped out. In fact, horror books have made a huge splash over the past year or two, with creators and readers flocking to books featuring decomposing zombies, hungry vampires, and monsters that only the cursed can see.
While both DC and Marvel went back to the zombie well with new volumes of DCeased and Marvel Zombies, respectively, the former also launched the horror comic-centric Hill House imprint last year. Smaller indie labels like Boom and Image doubled down on horror titles like Something Is Killing the Children and Killadelphia, which have both seen critical acclaim.
Ahead of Halloween 2020, SYFY WIRE assembled a handful of some of the newest comic books that will keep you up at night. From the "Carpenter-esqe" feel of Plunge to the gothic horror of Mercy, these stories are not only some of the scariest stories you’ll read, they're some of the best comic books being made today.
Joe Hill (W), Stuart Immonen (A)
In addition to launching the Hill House imprint for DC Comics, Joe Hill has had a busy year publishing several stories of his own, including Basketful of Heads and Plunge. The latter, featuring the impeccable art of Stuart Immonen, focuses on a lost ship, the Derleth, which has suddenly reappeared after more than 30 years. With its mix of horror, sci-fi, and monster movie, Plunge feels like sitting through a classic '80s horror film, complete with terrifying, gross-out moments and edge-of-your-seat thrills.
In January, Hill spoke to SYFY WIRE about some of Plunge's influences, including The Thing, Aliens, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, noting, "Hopefully, it combines a few elements from each of those while feeling fresh and new,” he said.
Something Is Killing the Children
James Tyninon IV (W), Werther Dell’Edera (A)
A riff on the monster movie trope, Something Is Killing the Children is one of the hottest indie books going at the moment, and high on speculators’ lists to transition to the screen. It’s also terrifying in a way that feels familiar yet alien at the same time. At the center, reluctant hero Erica Slaughter shines as she tries to save a small town from monsters only a few people can actually see. Bloody, visceral, and addictive, the series has racked up enough fans to where the most recent issue (#11) outsold the first.
Jeremy Haun (W), Danny Luckert (A)
Slowly creeping nightmare fuel is probably the best way to describe the excellent Red Mother from Boom team Jeremy Hau (The Beauty, The Realm) and artist Danny Luckert (Regression). Red Mother follows the story of Daisy McDonough as she tries to piece her life together after a mysterious attack. The story plays on the idea of Charles Bonnett syndrome, a medical condition that can sometimes trigger hallucinations in people who are struggling with eyesight. Red Mother looks into what would happen if some of those visions turned out to be frighteningly real.
Ben Percy (W), Ramon Rosanas (A)
Ben Percy's tale examines how a Japanese hitman, a Mexican street urchin, an Afghan military aide, a polar research scientist, and a Midwestern American survivalist each deal with the “end of the world” at the hands of zombies. It’s a particularly interesting take on how folks from different corners of the world may choose to spend their final days in the wake of an actual zombie attack.
Chip Zdarsky (W), Ramon K. Perez (A)
Another newly released horror-tinged comic, Stillwater centers around a mysterious town where no one dies. From writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Ramon K. Perez, the book is a joint release between Boom and Skybound, and is Zdarsky’s first venture into the genre.
In an August interview with SYFY WIRE, the writer elaborated on the story, while noting he was influenced by works like Twin Peaks and It.
“As soon as I locked onto the idea that the physical town itself is what retained immortality, I saw that there's so much you could play with. What does this mean for animals, for children, for seniors?” Zdarsky said.
Mirka Andolfo (W) (A)
Mercy is a sensual and beautifully drawn gothic horror story with a twinge of The Thing and The Strain thrown in. While the art borders on Young Adult, the content is anything but. Just as the town of Woodsburgh is beset by a mysterious spree of gruesome deaths, the enigmatic Lady Hellaine arrives with dark plans for the townsfolk. Gorgeous to look at and welcoming in its world-building, Mercy is also a great pick if you’re just looking for a scare.
Rodney Barnes (W), Jason Shawn Alexander (A)
While it feels like a slow-burn crime drama at first glance, Killadelphia includes some bone-chilling turns as it's revealed that just behind the hustle and bustle exterior of Philadelphia lies a massive cache of vampire nests. When super-detective James Sangster Sr. is murdered, it’s up to his son to uncover the awful truth and make things right. Loaded with actual American history, Killadelphia also features one of the founding fathers as the main villain.
In January, writer Rodney Barnes told SYFY WIRE that he conducted loads of research before penning the book.
“For as long as I can remember, folks have questioned how history affects African-American culture. My goal was to answer one aspect of that question. The 'Sons of the Republic' is directly related to the ideology of those pockets of uber-passionate folks who don't just rally or vote, they go to extremes politically and form militias. How would a group that had that type of passion actualize itself if it weren't bound by time?” he said.
Department of Truth
James Tynion IV (W), Martin Simmonds (A)
Released last month, The Department of Truth is a psychological, sci-fi thriller and a horror story rooted in dueling realities (from what we can tell from Issue #1). Tynion's debut book at Image follows conspiracy theory scholar Cole Turner as he finds out the awful truth, every one of the conspiracy theories he’s studied, from the JFK assassination to reptilian shapeshifters, is true. To make things worse, a shadowy agency only known as the Dept. of Truth has been covering them up for generations.
Marvel Zombies: Resurrection
Phillip Kennedy Johnson (W), Leonard Kirk (A)
Ever since their debut in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four more than 15 years ago, the Marvel Zombies (of Earth-2149) have been terrorizing the 616 Universe with their undying hunger. In addition to being teased in Donny Cates’ current Thor run, the Zombies have come back with a new series, Resurrection. In this new chapter, the decomposing body of Galactus has impacted Earth, and it’s up to Spider-Man and his rag-tag band of superheroes to investigate.
DCeased: Dead Planet
Tom Taylor (W), Trevor Hairsine (A)
Following up last year’s hit DCeased about the DC Universe becoming zombie-fied, Tom Taylor has returned to tell the story about what happens after the Anti-Life Equation infects heroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, and they can’t save the day. Five years later, after Earth has become a hellscape, a distress call goes out to the heroes of Earth-2, and it’s up to Batman (Damian Wayne) and Superman (Jon Kent) to lead a rescue effort.
Al Ewing (W), Joe Bennett (A)
Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s amazing Hulk run may be two years old at this point, but it’s become no less dramatic and horrifically fun at every turn. Hailed by many as the best comic book currently running at the Big Two, Immortal Hulk has become a fan favorite in no small part to Bennett’s pencils, which feel fresh out of a John Carpenter film. Ewing’s character study of the Hulk’s multiple personalities along with the introduction of the hellish Green Door has resulted in the perfect combination of superhero comics and horror fantasy.