Tuesday Top Ten Halloween Special: The Best Single Issue Horror Comics

It’s October, a month made for thrills and chills. Scary movies are a dime a dozen, but good ones are harder to find. Good scary comics are even more rare. We’ll save you the trouble and give ten single issues that are sure to disturb and linger in your psyche all the way to November.

aug030186-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_10. Gotham Central #12:

“I always laugh at the big comics media sites when they go all Bleacher Report listicle on some character’s best issues or most frightening moments (nice to meet ya’ kettle, they call me pot) as if you can encompass anything about one comic character from a series of single issues or story arcs based on an arbitrary data point from an iconic fictional entity that has been appearing in several monthly serialized installments over a 50+ year period. Anybody that’s read Gotham Central issue #12, the first in the profoundly influential Soft Targets arc by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark & Lee Loughridge, knows that it’s the first chapter in an arc about one of the most notorious, popular and tremendously over exposed comics characters.  But the genius in the arcs opening salvo is how it becomes an examination of that character in a way that is purely elemental. Because Gotham Central #12 isn’t about one person so much as it’s about fear; the fear of chaos and it’s deadly consequences, and a fear that is cast via a lone gunman picking off government officials at random with a sniper rifle, starting with the Gotham City Mayor and going downward. Brubaker, Rucka & Lark are all masters of stretching their comics storytelling by delving into the minutia of their cast and setting within the context of their plot conceit and that’s on full display here by focusing on the confusion and anxiety of the controlled chaos. By the issue’s end, the reveal of the culprit is almost an afterthought because the damage is already done. The book’s conceit, that a single person with a single weapon can murder at will while disrupting the very fabric of organized society, is terrifying in and of itself but even more so considering how real a threat that’s become for North American’s. Here is one of the greatest and most terrifying single issue’s about one of comics most popular character’s that accomplishes the former by circumventing the latter. The fear in the comic doesn’t come from anything unique to the larger context of it’s fictional continuity or something supernatural. Instead, it’s just a fact of reality that anybody who lives in a country with a high proliferation of deadly weapons has to live in fear of on some level no matter what. That’s truly horrific”-Pat

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9. Daredevil #181:

“While best remembered for containing one of the most iconic death scenes in comics, what truly sends the chills down readers’ spines is how well Frank Miller gets into the head of a sociopath. The issue is narrated by Bullseye as he plans piece by piece his revenge on Daredevil. Miller’s Bullseye speaks with the calm, utter confidence of a man convinced of his superiority. At the same time, he conveys an obsessive hatred for his adversary. Too often Bullseye is written as a two-dimensional nutcase, whereas here Miller renders him a full-fledged personality, where reason and irrationality freely mix and collide with each other.  His thought patterns make sense, even if they are those of a refined killer. And what could be more terrifying than being trapped in the mind of a deranged lunatic?”- Cosmo

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8. Moon Knight #2:

“An Axe murderer running around Manhatten would be scary enough. A serial killer targeting the homeless and leaving the bodies for all to see would be another thing. Imagine the child you had abandoned years ago had become both of those things and the terror hits a new low. Mark Spector’s ally Crawley finds himself in this position, with his son hunting his absent father for revenge. Crawley tries to give him another chance, not wanting one of his few acts as a father to be sending his son to jail. In the end, his son is too far gone and proves to be his own worst enemy. Moon Knight is unable to save Crawley’s son, and Crawley is forced to live with the decisions that brought all this about. It’s a story worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, of human failings and people put on a dark path years beforehand.”-Josh

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7. Hellboy The Wolves of St. August:

“Hellboy is not a series I usually associate with horror in and of itself, but a few stories stick out as fitting that classification. Mike Mignola packs this story with everything; ghost werewolves, dead priests, creepy little girls. The comic is inspired by a legend of Saint Patrick cursing a group of Pagans so they would turn into wolves every seven years. A similar premise happens here, with a royal family cursed by a traveling Saint to become werewolves every seven years until their subjects in the town village kill them. In the present, the family’s last living descendant seeks revenge on the villagers’ descendants by wiping them out with the ghosts of his family. For Hellboy, this is another job that involves another friend of his dying. For Kate Corrigan, its her first test as a field agent for the B.P.R.D that stress’s her resolve. It’s a story of revenge and the past coming back to haunt the living, both the victims and the aggressor.”-Josh

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6. Hellblazer #13:

“One of the most memorable John Constantine stories I’ve read, its easy to dismiss as a dream issue but would ignore its haunting imagery. Johnny boy has gone to an old Seaside resort to get away from his troubles, but his demons travel with him. As he remembers the darker corners of his childhood memories, the world around him descends into a Nuclear Wasteland. His skin gets paler and blemished while most of the people around him die off from radiation. With only a widowed woman to keep him company, John approaches her to enact a perverse Adam and Eve play. Gradually, the woman becomes with John’s child and John’s mind starts teetering on the edge. When he hears the baby will have two heads, John is only bemused instead of shocked. He wants something to survive him and this hellish world, whether it has one head or two. In the end, the Nuclear Wasteland consumes everything, even John’s bones. It’s a remarkable meditation by Jamie Delano on domesticity and the threat of Nuclear Power, and a fearful glance at what skitters in and out of John’s mind.”- Josh

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5. Swamp Thing #56:

“Alec Holland probably thought becoming a shambling plant monster was the worst thing that could happen to him. Once he adjusted to it, learning of his immense powers and falling in love with Abigail Arcane, he might’ve hoped his dark days were behind him. When his consciousness was sent far out into deep space, he reconstituted his body on a strange, empty world. Slowly losing touch with reality, Holland reconstructed his old home in Louisiana with imitations of his friends to keep him company. Once these illusions start feeling too real, Holland realizes fear is keeping him from trying to return home. Watching him slowly go mad before abandoning his labors is a creepy but satisfying story of a man who only wants to hold his love in his arms one more time.’-Josh

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4. The Walking Dead #64:

“If you’ve seen the show, you know this scene by the phrase ‘Tainted Meat’. If you’ve read the actual comic, then you know how Kirkman and Adlard tease out the scene and the revealat the top with an even more shocking one later. As humans are driven to desperate measures in a Zombie Apocalypse, they make mistakes that can’t be taken back until the deed is done. In a macabre sense of irony, the food they so desperately wanted may cost them more than they bargained for.”-Josh

kidmiracleman3. Miracleman #14:

“While the majority of this issue is concerned with Miracleman saying goodbye to his alter ego Michael Moran, the most searing moments belong to the return of Kid Miracleman. Readers have already seen how the child Bates has been tortured and abused by other children. They also know that he could make all that pain go away by releasing Kid Miracleman. Yet, he keeps the demon locked deep inside. The emotional pain of Bates’ circumstances is palpable, pulling the reader in separate directions. Alan Moore creates multiple levels of horror as the reader witnesses Bates’ trauma, followed by the fury of Kid Miracleman once he is unleashed. Moore then twists the knife one more time by tricking the reader into thinking that just maybe Kid Miracleman might spare the life of a sympathetic nurse. Artist John Totleben is restrained in depicting the carnage especially when compared with what is to come in the Battle of London. The sequence hints at the horror to come without losing any of the human scale. Together Moore and Totleben craft a scene which is one of the most haunting moments in comics.”- Cosmo

hellblazer_112. Helblazer #11:

“By writer Jamie Delano and the artistic team of Richard Rayner, Mark Buckingham and Lovern Kindzierski; a flashback to one of Constantine’s earliest supernatural adventures, and its horrific consequences on the innocent. Constantine improperly summons a demon from Hell, and a little girl’s body and soul is lost. I was also unsettled by the comic’s focus on the arcane, structured rules of the occult — if you summon a demon, you better have a proper protective circle and know the correct name of the demon you are summoning, or else! This was no Dr. Strange “Eye of Agamotto” mumbo jumbo — it was a four-color grimoire, and just the characters’ discussion of the ritual logistics required to summon a demon actually made me edgy because I knew I was reading something that my priest would probably throw onto a bonfire.”-Reed

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#1. The Sandman #6:

“A group of diners and a small-town waitress go about their day not suspecting what’s in store for them. John Dee, an escaped patient from Arkham Asylum, has a magical ruby with the power to control reality. As he sits in the diner watching the others, he slowly starts manipulating them for his entertainment. None of the diners are exactly innocent; one is a philandering husband, another an abusive women who let fear and jealously force her hand, and a waitress whose mind is not as big as her heart. True to horror convention, they all die a slow and gruesome death. That’s not the scary part, the journey there is what’s terrifying. As John controls his new friends, they’re completely susceptible to his whims. They feel whatever he wants them to feel and slowly he gets bored with their sitcom banter. Soon he has them worshipping him as a benign chieftain, before forcing them to act out a savage animal fight. As their mental health evaporates, the world outside begins to feel the effects as well. People across the planet start going mad and killing each other in bizarre and twisted ways, mirroring what’s happening in the diner. John Dee finds these acts amusing for a time, but by the end is left empty and bored among the dead bodies. With all these lives ruined and lost, Neil Gaiman leaves the reader questioning what was the point in Dee’s actions, and if those people as flawed as they were deserved what happened to them.”-Josh

Honorable Mention Bonus Pick

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Clarion Death & Survival or Death:

“As a collection of contributors, Nothing But Comics taste leans heavily towards post bronze age comics and beyond as should be evident from this list. The problem with that in the context of our premise is pre-code comics, and particularly the robust library of EC Comics. A publisher that thrived in focusing on horror anthologies, EC had some of the most influential strips of their era by focusing purely on it’s chosen genre. Two of my personal favorites are Carrion Death by Reed Crandal & Survival Or Death by Jack Davis. Like a lot of influential horror prose, the comic strips each invoke a fear a the core of humanity as the protagonists undoing is their own hubris combined with the raw authority and indifference of the natural world. Wonderfully drawn in two conflicting styles, Crandal is more straight forward and technically adept while Davis is far more stylized, each strip is powerful example of the genius macabre afforded from the comics of it’s era and their boundless relevance”-Pat

One thought on “Tuesday Top Ten Halloween Special: The Best Single Issue Horror Comics”

  1. I will say that I got late to my much hyped “Werewolf by Night” series reading and I only got through a few issues. It’s not what I remember it to be. I’m going to continue only because Conway is being replaced soon with Wein and then “Moon Knight’s” Moench. I’m thinking that I may have loved the W by N run because of the later issues. Maybe Moench issues? I’ll find out… perhaps Halloween 2017.

    For those that are interested. Today, Marvel added the whole Werewolf by Night run and an early chunk of Moon Knight comics to the Marvel U app. Figures… right after I buy a big Omnibus.

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