Halloween Mini-Reviews Bonanza: Haunted Chunks to Chew On

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter #1 Hammer at Titan Dan Abnett, Tom Mandrake & Sian Mandrake

It’s Halloween on Tuesday! Woah, scary! Want some comics with that? Yes you do! Try these.

Coady and the Creepies

Liz Prince (writer) and Amanda Kirk (artist)
October 11, 2017

Coady & The Creepies SC Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios Writer: Liz Prince Artist: Amanda Kirk Cover Artist: Kat Leyh

Coady and the Creepies stars horror pop punk band The Creepies made up of triplet siblings Coady, Cory, and Criss. The band and their roadie are traveling the country playing kick ass punk shows and getting mixed up in some hair-raising hijinks. This series is SO MUCH SPOOKY FUN, and there’s a great ghostly twist to this story! It’s full of spectres, meddlesome demons, fashionably dressed skeletons, and the scariest thing of them all: entitled-sexist-douche-bros!

The artwork and colour pallet is very reminiscent of ’90s Nickelodeon cartoons, so each page is full of character and colour which really pops, and the covers from Kat Leyh are glorious. If you like the idea of a Lumberjanes meets Jem & the Holograms by way of Eerie Indiana you will enjoy this series.

—Sara Wezzie

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter #1

Dan Abnett (writer), Tom Mandrake (artist), and Sian Mandrake (colorist)
September 27, 2017
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter #1, Publisher: Hammer at Titan, Writer: Dan Abnett, Artist: Tom Mandrake, Colorist: Sian Mandrake
Hammer Horror fans might be intrigued by this piece of nostalgia based on Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, one of Hammer’s lesser-celebrated films. This issue is more exposition than action, as we’re introduced to Captain Kronos, a vampire slayer, who is summoned to a town with a mysterious vampire problem. We also meet Kronos’ mentor/partner, Grost, and sexy, sexy Carla, who acts as the audience surrogate. Carla has what passes most closely to a personality of anyone in this comic, but even that’s being generous. She’s well-endowed and gorgeous, kicks vampire ass, and she can drink, eat, and swear just like one of the guys! To show that she’s a Strong Female, she gets to rail against some painfully unsubtle sexism and rejects being called “a lady.”

But then, what do we expect from Hammer Horror? We’re here for buxom women and buckets of bright-red blood, and this comic delivers on the first (although could use more of the latter). Tom Mandrake’s figures recall Vampire Tales and Eerie, which is a fun throwback, but lacks the specificity of the Hammer aesthetic. Many backgrounds are roughly sketched or are made of simple brush strokes, and Sian Mandrake colours them in grey and brown, so the eye stays with the characters, in washed-out blue, yellow, and red. I’d expect something a bit more lavish and garish from a Hammer adaptation. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter may hold some nostalgia value for fans of the film, but there’s not too much of interest here for an average reader.

—Allison O’Toole

Adventure Time 2017 SpOooktacular #1

Grady Hendrix, Alyssa Wong, Adam Cesare, and Chris Lackey (Writers), Heather Danforth, Christine Larsen, Slimm Fabert, and Kate Sherron (Artists)
October 11, 2017

Adventure Time 2017 SpOooktacular #1, Publisher: KaBOOM, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, Writers: Grady Hendrix, Alyssa Wong, Adam Cesare, and Chris Lackey, Artists: Heather Danforth, Christine Larsen, Slimm Fabert, and Kate Sherron, Cover Artist: Ian Culbard

This year’s collection of creepy Halloween Adventure Time comics is on point from cover to cover as the anthology primarily focuses on the many faces of Peppermint Butler. He’s a fan favorite and a strong side character with a secret evil wizard vibe that the four mini comics in the SpOooktacular bring out in full force. My particular fave was The Morning Ritual, a perfect, meticulous representation of the workings of Peppermint Butler’s life behind the scenes. He’s truly the Dark Lord we all need and love. Gumball’s Masquerade also deserves honorable mention, as it portrayed the ever-titillating relationship of Prince Gumball and Marshall Lee from the gender-swapped Adventure Time universe. Isn’t it just so cute when they’re both blushing breathlessly, inches from each other’s face? These four comics are definitely worth adding to your Halloween to-read list!

—Corissa Haury

Mermaid’s Scar, Volumes 1-4

Rumiko Takahashi
Viz Select Comics

Mermaid's Scar, Rumiko Takahashi, Viz

If you eat the flesh of the mythical mermaid, you may live forever … but that’s not necessarily a blessing. Mermaid’s Scar follows the story of Yuta and Mana, two humans who meet after both have eaten mermaid flesh and managed to obtain immortality. Rather than an ongoing narrative, it is a collection of shorter related stories that skips back and forth in time, each dealing with different facets of the mermaid’s poison and humanity’s relationship to life and death. And a poison it is—if it fails, you’re lucky if a monstrous “Lost One” is all that you become. Despite that, the humans they meet all chase after the dream of immortality, some at the cost of their lives or their happiness. In contrast, Yuta wishes to return to being human.

For those familiar with Rumiko Takahashi’s longer, comedic works, such as Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, Mermaid’s Scar is a stark departure both in length and tone. Fans of those series may find her more cartoonish style a disconnect with its darker content. But like her other lighter works, Rumiko Takahashi conveys emotion in a few strokes that hold movement in her action scenes, while refining details for the broader pages. With the exception of “Mermaid Forest,” which is split between volumes 1 and 2, the stories are self-contained, so reading them out of order doesn’t lessen the experience.

—Tia Kalla

By Chance or Providence

Becky Cloonan (writer & artist) and Lee Loughridge (colorist)
Image Comics
July 26, 2017

By Chance or Providence, Writer & Artist: Becky Cloonan, Colorist: Lee Loughridge, Publisher: Image Comics
“We all have ghosts that haunt us,” says one grim, solemn-eyed knight, revealing what may very well be the theme of Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence. This slim volume collects three of Cloonan’s self-published short stories, each connected by their medieval settings and supernatural themes. Though these are not ghost stories, per se, but Cloonan’s characters are haunted by their pasts, their lost loves, and, naturally, the monsters who lurk in the woods.

In “Wolves,” a hunter stalks a werewolf, driven by the memory of the lover he left behind; the Eisner Award-winning “The Mire” follows a young squire into a swamp where he learns a shocking secret; and in “Demeter,” a woman makes a fateful bargain with a ghastly hag who crawled out of the sea. Cloonan’s art is sensual and lush, containing both beautiful women ripped straight from an ancient tapestry and the maggot-faced undead. Lee Louhridge’s colors—amber browns and icy blues—add another layer to the book’s melancholy atmosphere. By Chance or Providence is further proof that there’s no genre Becky Cloonan can’t conquer, and the stories inside linger like the distant hum of a siren’s song.

—Kayleigh Hearn

Helheim #1

Cullen Bunn (writer), Joelle Jones (artist), and Nick Filardi (colorist)
Oni Comics
March 6, 2013

Helheim #1, Writer: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Joelle Jones, Colorist: Nick FIlardi, Publisher: Oni Comics
Helheim opens upon a forest at night. A thick troop of Viking warriors run through, edgy long oily hair fluttering behind them. Two younger men lead the charge down the hill, chased by unseen forces. A larger man with an elephant’s brow and a buffalo’s shoulders follows behind. They all look incredibly tough, but none are imposing. You can tell they’re tired. Joelle Jones draws with restraint, never giving the men a heroic moment. They’re cartoonishly shaped men living in a world of true vulnerability. Some of the vikings appear tougher than leather and thicker than trees, but they still fall to an arrow in the heart like all the rest.

The vikings fight, first with enemy warriors, then with the skeletons that spring out of their foes’ corpses. The supernatural occurrence is blamed on the lone woman traveling with the group. The viking patriarch who makes the claim is proven right when Rickard, his son, and the warrior ostensibly our story’s protagonist, dies and is resurrected as a witch-magic Frankenstein (or draugr, if you want to get official with it). Jones’ art really glistens here. She makes sure to draw every stitch in his flesh, and she knows how to get texture out of her thick, often marker-like lines. Bits of gore peek out between Rickard’s sewn-together skin. He makes a pretty dope doom metal album cover, the sort of character who’d look cool as hell ripping people in half or stomping on their skulls. It’s a setup issue, but it’s a solid setup for a brutal comic. This comic should only be read while listening to metal.

—Julia Whiteford

Pet Shop of Horrors

Matsuri Akino
Ohzora Publishing
March 2, 1995

Pet Shop of Horrors Matsuri Akino

Those who enter the pet shop that’s nestled away in a corner of Chinatown all want something: fame, power, money, luck, companionship, peace. The enigmatic D (no relation to the vampire hunter) has just the “pet” that will grant it to them… as long as they follow the rules and don’t reach for more than they’re given. After a string of unfortunate mishaps, the brash, straightforward cop Leon takes it upon himself to investigate exactly what’s going on with this suspicious shop. Too bad he doesn’t believe in demons, ghosts, or monsters…!

Pet Shop of Horrors is a monkey’s paw with the rest of the monkey still attached. Told in episodic format, each chapter features a different customer, a different animal, a different desire and conclusion. While some fall prey to their hubris, often in deadly fashion, some get what they need (if not what they originally wanted). Some even find hope or happiness with their animal companions. Underlying the ten volumes is an ongoing arc of the relationship between D, a man(?) who likes animals more than people, and Leon, a poor/wonderful example of humanity who forges a frenemy bond through sheer persistence. Pet Shop of Horrors is not gory or shock horror, but rather karmic, focusing more on the thoughtful placement of its death and the careful blurring of the line between normal and paranormal. All of this is draped in beautiful, detailed art that rarely misses an opportunity to highlight the (super)natural beauty of D and his pets.

—Tia Kalla

Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints

Thomas Smith (writer), Katherine Whittle (illustrator)
Frisson Comics
June 2016

Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints Written by Thomas Smith, illustrated by Katherine Whittle Frisson Comics June 2016

This is a tale of body horror not meant for the faint of stomach. The sketchy art style lends itself to a particular brand of disgusting. It’s a short, simple story that’s short on character development and long on characters making the sort of stupid decisions we all make every day. I’m not a fan personally of the “perfectly normal thing becomes horrific for no clear reason” sort of horror story, and I feel like the writing and art could’ve been tightened up a bit to convey more story in the same amount of space. 72 pages to convey a pretty simple plot is a lot.

—Annie Blitzen

Dollface #9

Dan Mendoza (writer), Zoe Stanley (artist), Valentina Pucci (colorist), Adam Wollet (letterer), covers by Dan Mendoza, Colette Turner, and Celor
Action Lab Danger Zone
September 2017

Dollface #9 created and story by Dan Mendoza & Bryan Seaton, scripted by Dan Mendoza, art by Zoe Stanley, colors by Valentina Pucci, lettered by Adam Wollet, covers by Dan Mendoza, Colette Turner, and Celor Action Lab Danger Zone September 2017

Featuring the now-famous Ivan the Pervy Ghost, this volume is sadly not even particularly titillating. Ivan drags Em out to some Spring Break hotspots and does some ogling, but the book mostly focuses on Lila’s tragic past as a tool of the patriarchy. Er, witch hunter. And she talks to some children. It’s a slow volume, but it culminates with Lila venturing into the Dark Woods to explore the Creepy House, so perhaps the next one will be…more spooky.
—Annie Blitzen

Bill and Ted Go To Hell

Brian Joines (writer), Bachan (artist), covers by Jamal Campbell, Logan Faerber, Sean Galloway, and Scott Koblish
BOOM! Studios
March 2017

Bill and Ted Go To Hell Written by Brian Joines, art by Bachan, covers by Jamal Campbell, Logan Faerber, Sean Galloway, and Scott Koblish BOOM! Studios March 2017

This isn’t really meant to be a horror comic at all, but it does revolve around the personification of Death, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Devil, and various other scary types. It took me a minute to feel like the dialogue was really clicking, which I entirely chalk up to the extremely stilted way Bill and Ted talk, which is a key part of the property. I’m not sure if it just took me time to get used to it or if it took Joines a while to get the hang of it, but once I got settled in, I really enjoyed this book. It’s all very personal, yet absurd, which, again, is the heart of what makes it work. It’s also very deep while coming off as shallow. You’d think this would have something to do with good and evil, but it’s really all about the value of family, and the various forms that can take. It’s a charming adventure.
—Annie Blitzen

Misty Vol 2: The Sentinels & End of the Line

Malcolm Shaw (writer), Mario Capaldi (artist, “The Sentinels”), John Richardson (artist, “End of the Line”)
Rebellion in cooperation with Egmont
1978, reprinted November 2017

Misty Vol 2: The Sentinels & End of the Line Written by Malcolm Shaw, art by Mario Capaldi (The Sentinels) and John Richardson (End of the Line) Rebellion in cooperation with Egmont 1978 originally, November 2017 reprinted

These comics are serious business. Misty was marketed to teenage girls, but these stories have no trace of the childish shallowness that often marked comics aimed at the demographic, such as Betty & Veronica. “The Sentinels,” in particular, deals with a girl who is thrust into a parallel reality ruled by Nazis, a feeling many of us are far too familiar with. It’s deeply unsettling, especially when the people around her constantly refuse to believe her and undermine her sense of reality. WWAC’s Doris Sutherland has written an in-depth review of this volume here.

—Annie Blitzen

The Once and Future Queen

Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirk bride (writers), Nick Brokenshire (artist), Frank Cvetkovic (letterer and designer)
Dark Horse
November 2017

The Once and Future Queen Story by Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirk bride, art and cover by Nick Brokenshire, lettering and logo design by Frank Cvetkovic Dark Horse November 2017

Here we have a reinterpretation of the Arthur mythos that revolves around a bisexual teen girl and her poly relationship with an asexual boy who fills the role of Lancelot and a fierce girl Guinevere. Merlin is a ghost with a poor grasp of reality who usually wears a space suit. They ride bikes rather than horses. As adaptations go, I absolutely love it. As romance comics go, it’s pretty good, with bonus points for being super queer. The issue of Lance’s asexuality in conjunction with joining an existing relationship that has a sexual dimension is handled very smoothly. Not being ace myself, I can’t speak to its accuracy, but it’s written in a way that fits well into the other narrative elements. I’m a big proponent of comics, especially romance comics, that balance an element like being an adaptation of a classic tale with a compelling narrative of their own, such as a romance. As a Halloween comic, it’s full of ghosts, goblins, and faeries coming through a weakened barrier into the human world with malicious intent, so you can’t get more spot-on than that.

—Annie Blitzen

The Trade

Thomas Smith (writer), Katherine Whittle (artist)
Frisson Comics
June 2016

Frisson Comics sent a review copy of this over with the following information: “…we are both massive horror fans but sick of navigating through problematic horror movies and comics.” Then they went and had a police officer use the phrase “Watch out, he’s got retard strength.” It’s an exceptionally glaring, standout moment in an otherwise sort of soft story. The Trade is about vampires, one in particular, named Seren. While it incorporates some horrific elements, I don’t know that I can really consider it to be a horror story; Seren relates the story of how she became a vampire to her bartender, Alice. It’s a tragic, poignant tale, but she relates those horrific events with a certain detached narration. The story is designed to make you feel for Seren by the end, but the final twist, what she wants from Alice, left me feeling hollow. It highlights Seren’s ultimate inhumanity, but I don’t know that it strikes the tone a horror story should.

—Nola Pfau

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Omnibus Vol. 1

Clive Barker with Mark Miller, Christopher Monfette, Robb Humphreys, Anthony Diblasi, and Brandon Seifert (writers), Leonardo Manco, Jesús Hervás, Stephen Thompson, Janusz Odon, Michael Montenat, Ibrahim Roberson, André Stahl Schmidt, Giovanni P. Timpano, Marcio Henrique, Tom Garcia  (artists)
BOOM! Studios
September, 2017

Clive Barker's Hellraiser Omnibus, Vol. 1, BOOM! Studios, 2017

After that first Hellraiser film, based on Clive Barker’s own short story “The Hellbound Heart,” the franchise changed hands to different creative teams (though he stayed on as producer). Even Pinhead, played faithfully by Doug Bradley from in several iterations, was re-cast in 2005. Though he served as a consultant on the run of Hellraiser comics in the 90s, Barker only wrote a few issues himself. Thus, this omnibus reflects Clive Barker’s official return to the Hellraiser universe, collecting the first twenty issues of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, which ran from 2011-2013.

The story picks up after the second movie, and focuses on Pinhead, the franchise’s pointy faced Cenobite, and Kristy Cotton, the final girl who got away. He’s finally ready to give up on eternity and take a crack at mortality, but first he must find a suitable replacement. Kristy is juggling a boyfriend, painting, and being a member of a secret group called The Harrowers made up of people looking to stop Cenobites from coming to earth. It off with a gory prologue, but the first chapter is jarring — I’m familiar with the Hellraiser films but I didn’t know if I was supposed to recognize all the characters or not. The book’s brisk pace makes you feel like you should know what’s going on, but it does eventually come around to explaining a few things about the mythology and digging into the backstory.

Some of the art is very 1990s Vertigo, sketchy outlines and moody coloring filling many of the pages, and some of it leans a little more cheesecake horror — there’s enough artists that if you don’t like one, you’ll soon see another. The gore is inventive, even if it’s not always clear quite what part of the body is being ripped apart. There’s the usual warnings for this type of horror – misogyny, casual sexual violence, etc., but if Hellraiser is a fave, then you’ll be a fan of this. The gothic dialogue, the violence, the S&M aesthetic — it’s all there, but sometimes it feels less haunting and more dated.

—Kat Overland

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

One thought on “Halloween Mini-Reviews Bonanza: Haunted Chunks to Chew On

Comments are closed.