Summer Scares: 13 Horror Comics to Keep You Spooked Until Halloween

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Summer Scares: 13 Horror Comics to Keep You Spooked Until Halloween

We’ve got your horror comics needs covered at Paste, whether you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of all that the fright genre has to offer, a breakdown of notable scares from terror’s grandmasters or sneak peeks at the next big thing in dread. Our easily spooked editors are full-blown scare-junkies, and the advent of summer signals that Halloween is just around the corner (kind of). To help tide our fellow horror devotees over until Samhain season, Paste rounded up 13 of the most fear-inducing comics currently on stands, from socially conscious body horror to epic-scale fantasy terror. Unlike our all-time best list, these titles are ongoing or recently concluded, offering gorehounds and jump-scare addicts alike a still-fresh corpse on which to feast during the sweltering months of summer.

AliensDeadOrbit.jpgAliens: Dead Orbit
Writer/Artist: James Stokoe
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Like fellow precision artists Geof Darrow and the late, great Bernie Wrightson, James Stokoe doesn’t stop drawing until nearly every millimeter of canvas is shaded, hatched and/or stylized. As seen in Orc Stain and his Godzilla runs, a microscope is required to appreciate his images in their hyper-articulate, chiseled depth. In Aliens: Dead Orbit, Stokoe uses his talent to shape a cosmic graveyard of space junk, dwarfing in scope and mind-numbingly vast. Zoom in tightly enough, and one lone space engineer sits stranded in the wasteland. Though this miniseries utilizes one of the most iconic horror franchises in film history, it builds on its foundation by imposing a sheer sense of scale and futility. Yes, protagonist Wascylewski matches wits with Xenomorphs and facehuggers, but Stokoe’s art begs him what’s the point? in a celestial vacuum of hope, light years from any aid. Aliens: Dead Orbit is a Venn diagram of awe, depression and the ghost of salvation, all splayed on 6.63” x 10.24” paper that feels as big as the universe at its most indifferent. Sean Edgar

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Publisher: AfterShock
As scribe Donny Cates clarified in his interview with Paste earlier this month, he doesn’t “find the Antichrist compelling whatsoever,” but is completely devoted to exploring “the girl who gives birth to it, and the impact it has on her life.” Though Babyteeth only launched this summer, it’s already taken a progressive twist on the template laid by films including Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and House of the Devil. Sex has consistently equated to doom in the horror template, striking a strong argument that the genre is, whether intentional or not, Christian propaganda. The proposition of a woman taking pride and responsibility for her bundle of heresy is a striking and refreshing evolution. Artist Garry Brown’s thick, marker-like lines lend a painterly, analogue touch that wouldn’t feel out of place on a ‘70s grindhouse poster. In these pages, new mama Sadie may face a parade of horror as her son, Clark, fills his unholy legacy, but she’s taking a Mother-of-the-Year attitude while rattling the literal gates of Hell. Sean Edgar

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.jpegChilling Adventures of Sabrina
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Robert Hack
Publisher: Archie Comics
Afterlife With Archie helped revitalize Archie Comics long before Riverdale became a Lynchian cultural phenomenon, but its weird-sister series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is purer pound-for-pound-of-flesh horror. Both series are scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (and both have suffered horrific scheduling issues), but where Afterlife leans on readers’ familiarity with the typically wholesome Archie cast, Sabrina plays its coming-of-age drama straight. Drawn in the style of vintage satanic-panic paperback thrillers by artist Robert Hack, Sabrina melds witchcraft-as-female-sexuality-metaphor with honest-to-Lucifer witchy terror, much like recent horror breakout film The Witch. There’s depth to the occult goings-on, but Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack don’t skimp on the ritual sacrifice. After a year-long(!) hiatus, Sabrina returns to shelves in July, just in time to hex your summer. Steve Foxe

Dregs.jpegThe Dregs
Writers: Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask
Black Mask has a habit of combining genre concepts with social awareness, and The Dregs rises to that challenge by flipping the slogan “Eat the Rich” on its decapitated head. The titular Dregs refers to the increasingly boxed-in homeless community in a gentrified Vancouver neighborhood. When yet another of their own goes missing, our bedraggled protagonist—who, like most of the area’s residents, abuses a mind-altering drug that helps him see “patterns” in the architecture and street signs of Vancouver—digs into the disappearances and the coinciding development deal from a high-profile corporation. Co-writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson and artist Eric Zawadzki operate at the intersection of David Cronenberg and Cannibal Holocaust, never skimping on the entrails or the implications of dining on society’s most overlooked members. Steve Foxe

HarrowCounty.jpegHarrow County
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cullen Bunn can’t seem to stop launching new series, with two new horror outings debuting in the last few months. Harrow County, his ongoing southern saga of “haints” and witches with stunning art from Tyler Crook, remains one of the best books the prodigious writer has ever produced. Bunn’s ear for southern dialect and Crook’s lushly painted artwork are perfectly in sync, and this summer’s arc pits protagonist Emmy, the strong-willing reincarnation of a powerfully wicked witch, against Bernice, her lifelong best friend who has slowly learned her own form of magic to defend her town and loved ones from the swarm of supernatural danger overtaking Harrow County. Crook, who cut his horror teeth in the pages of B.P.R.D., is the real star of the series, lending life to skinless boys, hulking many-eyed minotaurs and Emmy herself, an often-conflicted young woman with power to spare. Dark Horse has produced some of the industry’s best-loved horror stories over the years, and with 24 issues on shelves, Harrow County has firmly established itself within that legacy of lasting terror. Steve Foxe

Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Albatross Funnybooks
The backwoods assume a sinister new topography in Eric Powell’s Hillbilly, a comic that twists Appalachia into a rural nightmare where witches, demonic snakes and hatchet-wielding loners roam the hills. In its first year, the comic has proven just as immersive as the noir underworld of Powell’s previous opus, The Goon, albeit with a heavier fantasy bent. The lore has grown with each issue, as blind protagonist Rondel and his bear companion, Lucille, lead the reader further into a mythos that asks, What if Conan the Barbarian had been born in 1910s West Virginia? Of the self-contained tales, “The Fiddle That Screamed For Blood” strikes a high note of ‘80s horror hyperbole with a yarn about a conman musician who curses his violin. Powell often prefers muted greens and browns in his work, but the police-siren red injected into these pages speaks to what every issue of Hillbilly promises: a bloody clash between good and evil. Sean Edgar

KillTheMinotaur.jpgKill the Minotaur
Writers: Christian Cantamessa, Chris Pasetto
Artist: Lukas Ketner
Publisher: Skybound/Image Comics
Ancient civilization was harrowing enough with rampant disease, invading armies and other survival rigors that kept the mortality rate competitive. The horrific beasts of Greek mythology were endemic of the age’s perpetual strife, even for a society far more advanced than its global peers. Christian Cantamessa, Chris Pasetto and Lukas Ketner warp the epic sensibilities of Homer and Virgil with the creature-feature morbidity of Clive Barker in Kill the Minotaur, a comic that straddles the tightrope between grandiose and ghoulish. The miniseries takes the myth of the bull-headed monstrosity locked in a labyrinth and ups the budget and blood. Athenian prince Theseus is cast into an intoxicatingly large prison where an atrocity much larger and aggressive than a male cow preys on his sacrifices. Ketner preserves the elegiac glory of centuries past with striking architecture before filling his spaces with twisted designs that transcend nightmare fuel. Kill the Minotaur is a rare project that blends the high adventure of Ray Harryhausen with the striking imagination of ‘90s fantasy horror, disorienting the reader in a maze of twists and gore. Sean Edgar

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
Publisher: Skybound/Image Comics
The lazy description for Redneck would be The Hangover with vampires, but this comic taps a far richer thematic vein. In this Southern-fried bloodsucker saga, a family of reformed, rural nosferatu drink cattle blood before sending the bovine corpses off to their BBQ joint in town. Tragedy (and mass quantities of alcohol) strikes, forcing the clan—including a creepy, wheelchair-bound patriarch in the attic—to either reconsider its place in society or embrace its predatory nature. Writer Donny Cates layers in themes that recall the social contract à la Hobbes’ Leviathan and the genocide-laced history of the southwestern United States, charting humanity’s bloodlust from manifest destiny onward. Rendered in jagged, disorienting black swaths by Lisandro Estherren, Redneck courses with volumes of personality and back story, and tearing into this epic-in-process should be an especially gratifying experience, especially if it includes more mind-reading juvenile vamps named Perry. Sean Edgar

ShadowsOnTheGrave.jpgShadows on the Grave
Writer/Artist: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/artist Richard Corben’s contribution to horror comics can’t be underestimated. His signature style of dynamic lighting and decaying texture has graced titles ranging from Creepy and Eerie to Heavy Metal and Hellboy in a career that spans half a century. No other artist has been able to imitate his morbid facial expressions and surreal landscapes of fog and skeletons, and nor should they. Publisher Dark Horse has served as the artist’s modern home, releasing original tales (Rat God) and adaptations (The Conqueror Worm) throughout the past decade. But Shadows on the Grave may be Corben’s most evocative modern work, though: a sprawling anthology whose only constraint is its creator’s ghoulish imagination. Aside from a multi-part Greek tragedy, most stories average around six pages, and—like the best horror—refuse to over-explain the occult violence that punctures each twist. Why a sentient graveyard swallows a brusque traveler or what the humanoid swamp rat is doing to that man is only for Corben to know, and for his art to reveal the most terrifying angles, amplifying the mystique to keep your nightmares thriving. Sean Edgar

Southern Cross.jpegSouthern Cross
Writer: Becky Cloonan
Artist: Andy Belanger
Publisher: Image Comics
Aliens: Dead Orbit isn’t the only series carrying the space-horror banner during the same summer that Ridley Scott himself degraded the genre with an execrable entry in his landmark interstellar series. Southern Cross, written by Becky Cloonan, drawn by Andy Belanger and colored by Lee Loughridge, taps into the claustrophobia and everyman premise of the original Alien while folding in Event Horizon-style supernatural elements and a chillingly literal interpretation of the term “cosmic horror.” Divided into “seasons,” Southern Cross takes place within the titular haunted spacecraft, with a slowly rotating cast of cursed souls. Season Three kicks off at the end of July as a retired detective and her misfit crew board the ship, likely never to return. Cloonan’s scripting has proven as adept and nuanced as her art, and Belanger brings the Southern Cross to life as a hulking beast of a character unto itself. Steve Foxe

Writer/Artist: Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Image Comics
Ray Fawkes’ latest solo series is pure Italian horror: a down-on-their-luck quartet of musicians accepts a highly questionable gig at a remote estate, with explicit instructions not to remove their vision-obscuring masks. It doesn’t take a supernatural gift to guess what happens next, but the delight is in the pitch-perfect execution. Fawkes’ abstract, painted style has never been a better fit for his subject matter, vibrating somewhere between Francis Bacon and Bill Sienkiewicz. “Haunting” is overused when describing horror, but there are few words better applied to Fawkes’ work. As in the greatest Dario Argento and Mario Bava films, the color red is all but its own character throughout the pages of Underwinter, signaling the bloody consequences of an infernal bargain broken. Steve Foxe

Unsound.jpegThe Unsound
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jack T. Cole
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Harrow County author Cullen Bunn launched two horror series this summer: Image Comics gross-out Regression with artist Danny Luckert, which deals with past-life hypnotherapy; and The Unsound with artist Jack T. Cole, an asylum-set story of rapidly expanding madness. With shades of Clive Barker and The King in Yellow (inspiration for the first season of True Detective), The Unsound introduces Ashli, a new orderly at a beyond-capacity mental health facility where the inmates mutter about forgotten kings and wear unsettling masks. It doesn’t take long for the madness to boil over, and that’s where Cole shines. Cole garnered a following online for his intricately detailed scenes, often incorporating horror iconography, but his sequential work is much more fluid and in the vein of Emma Rios’ flowing lines. The Unsound is good evidence that Bunn’s horror skills extend well beyond Harrow County’s borders. Steve Foxe

WinnebagoGraveyard.jpgWinnebago Graveyard
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Alison Sampson
Publisher: Image Comics
Parents have scared teens for ages with details of child labor, but damn if Steve Niles and Alison Sampson concoct a new version of birth in Winnebago Graveyard that would make the most seasoned OBGYN faint. Niles has built a comics library of dread over the course of his career, including genre touchstones 30 Days of Night and Freaks of the Heartland. In this comic, line artist Alison Sampson and colorist Stephane Patreau take that legacy of twisting darkness and fear on a psychedelic road trip into small-town hell. In a political climate in which rural Americana has been depicted as a sect filled with violent, religious extremists, the subtext of this comic is especially resonant. The debut issue revolves around a family of three that ventures into a gothic carnival adorned with pentagrams, fleeing into a German surrealist nightmare after their RV disappears. At a terse four issues, Winnebago Graveyard marries the vulnerability of being desperately lost with ruralphobia, and it is absolutely horrifying. Sean Edgar

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