Archive for October, 2012

By Alex Headley

Check out our list of 5 comics sure to keep you awake tonight. Let us know what you think in the comments section or  on Facebook. What are your favorite scary comics?


1.      Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

Grant Morrison’s take on Batman has always been steeped in mythology and psychological horror. This graphic novel, released in 1989, takes an unflinching look into the twisted minds of Gotham’s famous psychopaths, including Batman. It’s creepy enough taking a long hard look into the minds of murderous psychopaths but it’s when Morrison lets us into the mind of Amadeus Arkham himself that things really get creepy. The Arkham story is a tragic one that really casts a sense of inevitable darkness over Gotham. That darkness doesn’t stop with the villains. Morrison isn’t afraid to cast doubt into the mind of the Bat. Themes of insanity are ever present in the Batman books but Batman is almost always portrayed as a consummate hero. When Morrison gets his hands on him, it’s easy to wonder just how safe we are under the protection of a man dressed as a bat with some serious angers issues and unlimited funding. Sandman artist Dave McKean brings it all to life in a scratchy, inky style that takes liberties with shapes and shadows to really drive home the scares.

The cover to volume 1 of American Vampire.
American Vampire is the property of Vertigo Comics.

2.       American Vampire

You know something is gonna be good and scary when Stephen King gets involved. I’ve only read the first two volumes but I’m more than hooked on the premise. Scott Snyder’s take on the vampire myth, in particular it’s evolution over time. He applies the concept of evolution to Vampires, each species adapts to its environment. This accounts for several different takes on vampires. The story primarily follows the exploits of American Vampire Skinner Sweet and his war with older, European species. The page count is split with Sweet’s first victim Peal Jones as she copes with her disease. The creepiness is primarily conveyed with the art. Rafeal Alburquerqe creates pages dripping with atmosphere. The vampires are creepy and varied in their appearance. For his part, Snyder has created a rich new take on the bloodsucking fiends and put a lot of time, effort and research into the book.

Hellboy volume 1 cover.
Hellboy property of Dark Horse Comics.

3.       Hellboy

Mike Mignola’s demonic paranormal investigator has become quite the iconic figure in comics. The series is steeped in the creepy, crawly and spooky. Even the primary characters are monsters in the traditional sense. Demons, ghosts, fish men and uncontrollable pyrokinesis are not typically heroic traits. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. fight the things that go bump in the night. The series shares the movies charm and wit but with the added bonus of Mignola’s fantastic art that is iconic in it’s own right. His line is bold, subtle and instantly recognizable. He does a fantastic job of bringing the zany world of Hellboy to life in vibrant colors and dark shadows.  The series has been running for years now and most recently the title character died, upping the scare factor as Hellboy travels through the afterlife.

The cover for Animal Man #1 in the New 52 line of comics.
Animal Man is property of DC Comics.

4.       Animal Man

Jeff Lemire’s New 52 Animal Man series is one of the success stories of the reboot. He has taken a rather obscure character and turned him into one half of the lynchpin (the other being Swamp Thing, more on that later) for the Dark line of comics at DC.  The conflict between The Red and The Rot produces visuals that nightmares are made of and truly brings the horror genre back to mainstream comics. Buddy Baker’s fight for survival is gutwrenching on every page and thanks to he big crossover event with Swamp Thing at the moment, neither is anyone else in DCU.Buddy Baker has a history of creepy comics thanks to Grant Morrison’s run with the character as part of the Vertigo line of mature comics released by DC. Morrison focuses more on the psychological horror and general creepiness than Lemire’s run and while not every story is frightening, it’s good to keep on your toes when Morrison gets involved.

The cover to Swamp Thing #1 in the New 52.
Swamp Thing is property of DC Comics.

5.       Swamp Thing

This marks Scott Snyder’s second appearance on this list. That dude has some creepy ideas. This book should almost be lumped in with Animal Man, the two are intertwined in the New 52, as the central villain is the same. The horrifying Rot is not just at war with the Red but also the Green; nature’s magical connection with plant life. What really sets Swamp Thing apart though is the Arcane family. Anton Arcane and his children are avatars of the Rot an they have truly made our hero Alec Holland’s life hell. Bringing these horrors to life is Yanick Paquette. Not only are hi figures disturbing and frightening but his panels pull the reader into the story in a way that really drives home the horror. Swamp Thing has a history of horror in much the same manner as Animal Man, seems the two are popular targets for prolific creators. Alan Moore redefined the character for Vertigo Comics many years ago. His take on the character expanded the mythos a great deal and it’s thanks to the roots he put in place that the character has been so successful here (not to undersell Snyder’s contributions, which are great). As with anything Moore does, the title has a palpable sense of atmosphere and a pacing that keeps you on your toes.

Know of any spooky comics that we left out? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.


Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The cover for Secret Six #29.
Secret Six belongs to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Gail Simone’s Secret Six could be the biggest loss of the DCU continuity shakeup that is the New 52. I generally think the New 52 was a smart move on DC’s part-people forget that for every Deathstroke, Teen Titans or Starfire sex scandal there is the excellent Wonder Woman reboot or the new depths of storytelling via Demon Knights and All-Star Western-but Secret Six’s replacement book, Suicide Squad, was a disappointment to say the least. Secret Six tells the tale of a group of super-villains that sell their services to the highest bidder ala Heroes for Hire, but you know, with murder and stuff. The team originally consists of Bane, Catman (no, really he is awesome), Scandal Savage (daughter of Vandal Savage), Ragdoll (a hilarious murdering contortionist clown eunuch), Deadshot and Jeanette (similar powerset to the Silver Banshee but with a much better story and character arc). Other characters come and go, including Scandal’s girlfriend, the Apokaliptan redhead Knockout, King Shark (he’s a shark!), and Black Alice.  The series spun out of Villains United, an Infinite Crisis tie-in series and received a great deal of critical praise.

For all the violence, sex and generally badness in the title it’s kind of astonishing that the series was published at all, much less 36 issues. Not that it was purely a dirty book for the sake of dirtiness, Secret Six took despicable villains and made the reader really root for them. If you read the whole series, the final issue is truly heartbraking. You find yourself rooting for Catman to beat Superman, it’s crazy. Everyone on the team gets a pretty full story arc to themselves.

You can see these character rise and fall as heroes, villains and, most importantly, as people. Everyone has their dark past or traumatic event to overcome (except for Deadshot, he just loves shooting things). Some make it, others don’t. Some of them give up and are resigned to their fate, others make every attempt to be better people and succeed. It’s hard enough for a mainstream superhero comic to consistently tell good stories, but it’s even more impressive when a writer can pull it off with a cast of characters that even the most diehard fan can’t recognize.

A villain defeated by Hostess snacks manages to be almost as cool as Batman.

Simone makes this guy a more emotionally relevant character than most heroes with decades of history. The series is easily the most nuanced portrayal of Bane since his first appearance.

I can’t decide if I really wish the series had continued in the New 52, sometimes it’s better when a story actually ends and the reboot allowed that to happen. I’m glad Simone took the group out in style, dragging, kicking, shooting and bashing. That said, I really wish we get more stories with that kooky family of killers that are occasionally, accidentally, noble heroes in their own right. Go read it! The entire series is available on ComiXology (on sale for $0.99 until Wednesday October 31 as part of the DC Supervillains sale). Most of it is collected in trade paperback form as well or single issues. You can find both at Kingdom Comics in Vestavia.


In this first episode of the Comic Critique Podcast, we (your hosts Alex and Phil)  introduce ourselves, talk about what makes a comic book “good”, and dive into the Marvel NOW! event.

First up is a review of the AvX event. We discuss what worked, what didn’t, and whether or not the event was a “success” as a whole.

Next up is a preview of the Marvel NOW! titles coming in November.  We’ll go title by title and talk about what to pick up and what to avoid like the plague.

Finally, we do our first “Superteam Draft.” In honor of the new Uncanny Avengers title, we’ll be drafting our very own mutant-loaded Avengers teams.

You can stream the show  here or download it at our podbean website. The show should be up on iTunes sometime this week.

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