Horror comics got a lot more exciting today as James Tynion IV and Steve Foxe have launched a new quarterly horror magazine. The magazine is entering an already robust field with indie publishers like Vault and TKO offering new and interesting delights to haunt our minds, but this new venture is different and quite exciting. Different because it’s in a digital pay-what-you-want format with each story wholly owned by its creators, and exciting because it features a murderer’s row of talent.
Many of these creators you’ll note have done exceptional horror storytelling fairly recently, further making this a book well worth reading to stay in the know. That talent, as Tynion points out in a letter in the magazine, was brought together in part because of work stoppages in the comic book industry. This first issue contains eight short-form comics, one short story of prose, a variety of pinup art, and an interview by of Scott Snyder by James Tynion IV about horror and comics.
I’ve always been a fan of anthology series — even if one story doesn’t resonate with you, you can simply keep reading and find something else you’ll love. Thankfully, I ended up loving nearly everything in this first issue — some stories didn’t totally click with me, but for some, they may be their favorites of the bunch.
The first story is called “The Washing Machine” by Tynion with art by Andy Belanger and letters by Serge Lapointe. The story wraps itself around a very clever idea, one you can imagine Tynion coming up with while waiting for his clothes to wash at the laundromat. It opens with a man who gets asked to help with an old lady’s laundry outside a run down motel. The man wakes to discover her rotting corpse is in the washer. To avoid being caught for murder, he runs the wash. And then runs it again, and so on. You can guess at the gore-factor of what is in that washer, and the story takes an interesting turn or two from there. It’s an exceptional story to start the book as it has various types of horror, and it hangs on a great idea with solid visuals in black and white.
Following this is “Local Heroes” by Marguerite Bennett, Werther Dell’ Edera, Emilio Lecce, with letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. “Local Heroes” is the kind of story any parent will get shivers from. It’s also relatable and told visually to increase the sense of dread of a very public crime. It ends on a great cliffhanger that will hopefully one day resolve, either in this magazine or elsewhere. Props go to the striking colors, well choreographed action, and letters that pop.
Next up is an absolute banger of a pinup by Aaron Campbell that goes with prose by Danny Lore. Titled “Mid-Season Slum”, the 7-page story fits in well with society’s obsession with supernatural shows and people who will never believe in ghosts and magic. There’s quite a bit here that is absorbing, and it evokes a lot of imagination and visuals as you read.
Michael Walsh follows this with a short comic that is the stuff of nightmares. Visuals, the play with darkness, and the concept are all relatable if you’ve ever wakened from a dream and aren’t quite sure if you’re genuinely awake. You can further delve into the “Sleep Stories” by Walsh here.
Nick Robles delivers a fabulous pinup that’s haunting and follows up well with Walsh’s black and white lines.
“Dead Means Dead” by Steve Foxe and Michael Dialynas with letters by Elhaou is next, and it’s a delight of a creepy story. My partner was looking over my shoulder at one point and uttered, “Whoa cool….and grosssssss.” For the record, Dialynas needs to do more horror comics, and you’ll likely agree after reading this story. Foxe comes up with some nifty twists and great page-turning moments.
Lonnie Nadler and Jenna Cha with Otsmane-Elhaou on letters give us a domestic-life horror tale that made my skin crawl. Cha draws some incredibly disturbing stuff in this issue, all within the boundaries of an ordinary suburban living room. It’s twisted and quite unnerving, paired with the premise of a woman who can’t tear herself away from terrible 1950s TV.
Another pinup is next by Francine B/WitnessTheAbsurd called “King of Fevers” and it has the creepy and fleshy horror vibes of The Cell. It’s the kind of horror image that is hard to tear yourself away because you feel like there’s power in it.
Following this is a preview of a story by James Tynion IV and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (with Otsmane-Elhaou) and then an interview with Scott Snyder conducted by Tynion.
The interview is a really good read, especially if you’ve followed Scott Snyder’s work for the last 15 or so years. It’s an intimate interview, likely more intimate than usual thanks to Tynion’s long and close relationship with Snyder. There are interesting insights about Snyder’s take on horror, Batman, and storytelling in general. Tidbits include a story about how Snyder’s grandmother took him to antique fairs and helped come up with backstories for items purchased and Snyder reflects, “I think I was always fascinated by the idea of the secret history of things and where they came from.” It’s an insightful interview and quite interesting.
Following this is “Nothing to Get Hung About” by Brian Level which is a pinup that reminded me of John Oliver’s recent stint trying to purchase erotic rat art, but twisted and scary.
Sam Johns and Dani team up on the next story which is hauntingly rendered in black and white. The story seems cold and solitary thanks to its lack of dialogue or captions. The look reminded me of The Low, Low Woods quite a bit as well, also by Dani.
“Baby Blue” by Trung Nguyen is an interesting story, reminding us evil and violence lurk even among opulence and well put together people. The lettering and use of word balloons is quite interesting as it’s very large and takes up the page.
The final story is by Ram V and John J Pearson with letters by Aditya Bidikar called “A Dream of Time Part 1”, which hopefully means we get another chapter soon. I say hopefully because these visuals are stunning in a Dave McKean sort of way. The story is quite solitary and haunting, as if written by a daydreamer, lost and haunted. A haunting bit of captions read, “People move on with their lives. Nothing seems to affect them.” That hit me as we bear witness to the pandemic leaving folks numb to others suffering.
As you can tell by the length of this review, there is a lot of content here, and it all costs whatever you think is fair, making this a steal. This book is an exceptional anthology and a one-of-a-kind product in the comics industry today. I could not put it down for the life of me. Titans of comic book horror come together and deliver on a variety of stomach-turning, skin-crawling, thought-provoking, and mind-twisting horror, making this one the most intriguing comic offerings today.
You can buy it right now at Razorblades.com.