afterlife with archie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids trick or treating and everyone telling you to be of good fear! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Halloween has become as big as Christmas. From excessive decorations to Hallmark cards and holiday parties, the reign of the Pumpkin King is encroaching on Santa Claus’ good cheer. Although we have horror films a’plenty, movie fans may be looking for something a little more this year. Something to read when the sun goes down. Something to keep the seasonal spirit alive between slasher flicks and ghost stories.

So how about some great horror comics? From science fiction to the occult to zombies to just good ‘ol Halloween fun, we have got you covered. And most importantly: these series all stand alone, so you don’t have to do the kind of back-breaking research that often goes hand-in-hand with superhero comics. Just pick a title that sounds good and dive right in.

Enter at your own risk and in the words of the Mistress of the Dark herself: “Unpleasant dreams!”

Afterlife With Archie

Afterlife With Archie 

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla

This comic. My god. This effing comic. I don’t read Archie comics, and have a relatively basic understanding of them at best. So if you have never read Archie Comics or are only mildly familiar, rest assured you won’t have any issue reading this, and my-oh-my do you need to read this. As a horror nerd, I picked up Afterlife with Archie on a “Huh, this could be fun,” whim. I honestly feel like one of those people on Antiques Roadshow. What I picked up seemed like a simple trinket, but what I got was million-dollar entertainment.

When Sabrina the Teenage Witch (yes, you read that correctly) attempts to help Jughead bring his dog back from the dead, she unknowingly releases unknowable evil in the form of your typical infectious, bite-induced zombie apocalypse. All hell breaks loose. To my great and pleasant surprise, Afterlife with Archie is legitimate horror. It isn’t campy, it is grim. Very grim. Don’t let the lighthearted Archie name fool you like it did me. This comic is dark and it is twisted and it is juicy and you just want to sink your teeth into it.

I don’t remember the last time I cried reading a comic, but one scene in particular between Archie and his dog Vegas left me an absolute mess. Afterlife with Archie is heavy on heartbreak horror. It makes sure to outline everything these characters have to lose, using personal relationships and flashbacks to emphasize everything that is lost in this horrific situation. In much the same way that a film like Shaun of the Dead sneaks up on you through the comedy to deliver a heartfelt and touching look at the hopelessness that the zombie apocalypse would bring to family and friends, it turns horror into tragedy.

I read it cover to cover and let out a childish and whiny “But…but…I don’t wanna wait,” when I realized that volume 2 was only available for pre-order. However, if you don’t mind single issues, head to your local shop and hunt down the second arc, but shhhh – don’t tell me what happens.

Haunted Knight

Haunted Knight

Written by Jeph Loeb

Illustrated by Tim Sale

Including Batman on a comic book list seems a little on the obvious side, but with the popularity of superhero movies, it seems all too necessary to include Batman: Haunted Knight. If you love Batman but find it intimidating to jump into the vast comic book history of the iconic vigilante, then perhaps you can turn to this collection of Batman tales like you would turn to an age old Christmas tale. It’s the kind of short fun read that you can read every year to bring the Halloween cheer.

Haunted Knight includes three stories from the iconic Batman duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Each story features a different villain. Story One, “Fears,” finds a vulnerable Bruce Wayne contemplating giving up his unstable existence for the love of a good woman and some normalcy, but the Scarecrow has something to say about that. Story Two, “Madness,” finds a rebellious Barbara Gordon defying her father’s over-protective wishes and sneaking out on Halloween only to be kidnapped by none other than the Mad Hatter. And finally, Story Three, “Ghosts,” a tale that takes its inspiration from A Christmas Carol and finds Bruce Wayne greeted by the ghost of his father with an existential warning. Throughout the night, Bats is visited by three of his arch-enemies in spirit form to show him his past, present, and bleak future, making it the ultimate Halloween holiday tale.

Definitely more Halloween and less horror than the other comics on the list, Haunted Knight is simply a fun read for the season, in much the same way as you would watch Hocus Pocus or a Nightmare Before Christmas.  

Clean Room

Clean Room 

Written by Gail Simone

Illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt

What do you get when you mix a Scientology-esque religious organization, some badass ladies, monsters, demons, and some unforgettably creepy face puppetry? Why, you get Clean Room, of course.

This disturbing horror comic follows a self-help organization called the Honest World Foundation. It turns out to be more of a religious cult created by the writer of pulp horror fiction, but the Hollywood elite are enraptured and the members lose touch with reality in more ways than one. Sound kinda familiar? Yes, the set up to Clean Room is not so subtle in its relation to Scientology. However, the Honest World Foundation is Scientology with the WTF factor cranked to eleven.

Seriously, if you have ever had any doubt that female writers could throw down when it comes to some seriously messed-up, disturbing horror, here you go. Gail Simone (along with artist Jon Davis-Hunt) knock it out of the park with a fantastic melding of dirty minds and science horror not often seen in female-led and written comics. It’s the kind of strong horror that you want to experience after midnight. However, Gail Simone manages to make none of it seem gratuitous. Every perverse remark or grotesque monster contributes to the all around eerie feeling of the reality in which Clean Room is set.

The psychological horror element to Clean Room is subtly built, making you fall victim to the confusion and manipulation as much as our protagonist Chloe, who just wants answers after she found her fiancé had committed suicide while holding a copy of Honest World Foundation’s founder Astrid Mueller’s book. If you think you know what Astrid is all about…you don’t. If you think you know what is going to happen next…you don’t. And if you think you can read volume one without picking up volume two…you can’t.

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