There are a lot of great horror comics series — Beasts of Burden, Harrow County, and Locke and Key all come to mind — but sometimes you need to read something quick. A graphic novel without fourteen volumes that you need to individually hunt down.
Take a break and scare yourself with these self-contained horror graphic novels this October!
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Through the Woods started as the viral webcomic “His Face All Red.” That story’s popularity allowed writer-artist Emily Carroll to find a home for this beautiful book of fairy tale retellings. Carroll drags the stories back from the Disney-fied versions readers are used to, more toward the violence of the Brothers Grimm, where Cinderella’s step-sisters cut off pieces of their feet to attempt fitting them into Cinderella’s shoe.
The stories are made even better by Carroll’s original art style. The images themselves are simpler, more stylized than most comics, giving the reader a false sense of ease. She’ll lull you further in with a familiar pattern of panels on each page. When the monsters arrive, Carroll breaks from that pattern, shattering your comfort.
Destroyer by Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
Victor LaValle is one of the best horror writers doing it today. His H.P. Lovecraft reclamation The Ballad of Black Tom is incredible, breathing new life into Lovecraft’s most racist story, “The Horror at Red Hook.” Destroyer is LaValle’s latest work is a modern day graphic novel reimagining another horror classic: Frankenstein.
Along with artist Dietrich Smith, LaValle brings the dead back to life. The opening could be ripped straight from the headlines: a young black man is shot to death by the police. His mother, the last member of the Frankenstein family, brings him back, getting the attention of the original monster, who’s still alive and wants to make sure no one else is.
The Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito
If you haven’t read any of horror legend Junji Ito’s work, The Dissolving Classroom is a great place to start. Unlike his other work, it’s short, single-volume, quick read graphic novel. The story starts when a new student transfers into a school and can’t seem to stop apologizing. There’s an outbreak of a new disease, and a little girl is stalking the main character.
The plot details aren’t as important as Ito’s art. His black-and-white gore and body horror are astoundingly disgusting. Whether it’s a melting face, a person being disformed into a living spiral, or some kind of worm creature coming out of somewhere it shouldn’t, Ito draws it better than anyone.
Severed by Scott Snyder, Scott Tuff, and Attila Futaki
Severed tells the story of a twelve year old boy running away from home to search for his absentee father. He meets up with a traveling salesman, who isn’t what he seems to be. If you’ve read any horror before, you’ve got a pretty good idea where this is going.
What makes Severed good is the frame story. The little boy we’re following is telling this story as an old man, which brings his reliability as a narrator into question. He was a kid when these things happened and forty years is a long time without mentioning the fact that he looks like he’s aged a lot more than forty years. It also gives the narration in the graphic novel a voice, which is a huge part of traditional ghost stories.
Survivors’ Club by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, and Ryan Kelly
Marketed as feeling like an 80s horror movie, Survivors’ Club follows a group of people who (you guessed it) survived supernatural events. Someone or something is picking them off one by one. They need to dig through their pasts to find the common elements in order to figure out what’s happening in the present. If they can’t, they’ll die. No pressure.
Beukes has written at least two phenomenal horror novels (The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters), but it’s Ryan Kelly’s art that makes the pages pop. This graphic novel isn’t for the faint of heart.