This collection of insidious issues invites readers to experience the terrifying tales that inspired spooky scribes like Rob Zombie and Robert Englund, but do these harrowing haunts stand the test of time?
The EC Archives: The Haunt of Fear Vol. 4 (Dark Horse Comics)
In both horror and heavy metal circles, the role of grotesque pulp comics from the ‘50s and ‘60s in the shaping of the general aesthetic and development of these art forms can not be overstated. As the first real visual outlet for the sort of macabre tales of murder, mayhem, ghouls and ghosts, comics like *Tales from the Crypt* and *Adventures Into the Unknown* introduced an entire generation of readers to the dark side of fiction. From an industry standpoint, horror comics (and true crime comics for that matter) served as a great landing point for many pulp writers, who could at last provide images to go along with their sordid tales of murderous mad men and dangerous damsels.
If that speaks to a certain sensibility you have in your heart of hearts, the *EC Archive*’s latest trade collection of classic *The Haunt of Fear* stories should be right up your alley. This volume (EC’s fourth) collects six issues of the evil anthology, reprinting 42 of these classic stories in full technicolor (somewhat ironically, that last part’s not technically true). If you’re at all familiar with the conventions of horror movies or literature you know exactly what to expect. Each story is essentially a variation on same sort of moral espousing Monkey’s Paw parable.
One thing that neophytes will be quick to note is that, following the convention of the pulp fiction of the era, the stories can be very text heavy. Each of these stories is narrated one of four different avatars, but none of them has too distinct a voice (and this is definitely not the same Crypt Keeper from HBO’s *Tales From the Crypt* series) so most read the same. This sameness often translates to the dialogue which is so verbose as to essentially limit what we can see in the artwork. Pretty much every panel is filled with as many as four sentences explaining the scene you’re actually watching from the character’s perspective taking up nearly half of the space. It’s not entirely bad, though, because while the artwork is fairly inventive for the ‘50s, a lot of the nuance and convention in visual storytelling that we take for granted in modern comics had yet to be developed at the time. As such the artistry is often pretty basic.
Another difference from the ‘50s that may be a little jarring for the horror fans among us is the almost complete lack of gore. Oh there’s certainly violence and people get murdered in all kinds of ways (one dude even has his guts strewn across a baseball diamond!), but there’s not a drop of blood to be seen in this whole book. It’s weird what comics would and wouldn’t allow back in the day, and it does hurt the experience a little bit, but not enough to sway your opinion on the book too significantly.
This edition actually comes with a neat foreword from shock rocker Rob Zombie, which reveals how the famed director of *House of 1000 Corpses* came to be so well acquainted with the series. It’s actually a quick but endearing read that really shows Zombie’s appreciation for this series and its ilk. Somewhat less enthralling is the introduction by Grant Geissman, which takes on more of a “book report” feel instead of a loving homage.
Overall, you know what you’re getting into with *The Haunt of Horror* series: episodic tales of murder, monsters and madness that serve as a precursor to more famous endeavors like *Tales From the Crypt*, *The Twilight Zone* and (more recently) *Black Mirror*. It’s a deep anthology with a lot to appreciate if this hits your particular niche. If you’re not huge into horror then it’s a little weird that you’ve read this deep into this review, and this book’s not going to be your cup of tea.
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