Comics have long been a medium conducive to horror because they’re able to get away with imagery that films and television can’t. Some of independent publishers’ best comics right now aim to scare, and we’ve put together a list of our favorite series still running. Some are set in outer space, and others are set in small towns, but the goal that binds them all together is chilling the reader.
Dark Horse’s Harrow County began in May 2015, and its next issue is set for release on February 10th. The story, which began as a free online prose publication on author Cullen Bunn’s website, follows a girl named Emmy who lives in a creepy town surrounded by a forest of ghouls. The story really begins to open up once Emmy realizes she’s connected to the frights around her, in a way she has to reckon with.
Though Harrow County’s plot is scary enough, artist Tyler Crook really drives the series home with pages that appear to be illustrated in painstaking watercolor. The art feels like a creepy folk artist’s look at paranoia.
Outcast is a mandatory read for those who want to catch up on the comic’s gorgeous art before watching the 2016 Cinemax adaptation. We love it, as evidenced by our review from December.
Written by Robert Kirkman, who also writes The Walking Dead, Outcast is a quieter, more intense look at demon possession in a small town.
The 2016 release date for Wytches hasn’t yet been set, so it’s a perfect time to catch up on all six issues from 2015. The Image comic, written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Jock, values page count more than most comics. Its first issue featured 30 pages of ad-free, terrifying plot, and subsequent issues followed this commitment.
It’s refreshing to see Snyder and Jock — both veterans of writing and illustrating Batman series — giving so much respect to indie horror, and Wytches benefits from their shared exuberance. The story supposes that every person in history killed for being a witch was innocent, and that our understanding of witches is too limited. The real witches in the comic are child-snatching, chittering, unseen demons in the woods, and they thirst for blood.
Vertigo’s Clean Room is illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt and written by the venerable Gail Simone. In February, the series will return with its fifth issue, which promises further details on its central, psychedelic cult, and more truly disturbing hallucinations.
The “clean room” in the title refers to the cult leader’s hallucinatory control room, in which she tortures and punishes characters who feel tormented by their wrongdoings. Diving into each character’s psyche and experiencing their pain via Davis-Hunt’s bright, monstrous drawings is a lot of fun.
Image’s Revival, the story of a small town in Wisconsin visited by the recent dead, is so visceral and driven by its heart-pounding plot that it’s a wonder we’re not all watching it on TV yet. The series’ 36th issue hits stands January 27th, and its previous issues are almost all available in softcover collected editions.
The art is bloody and lovely, and Tim Seeley’s dialogue truly delves into what it means to lose a loved one. Revival is scary, but it’s also emotionally resonant.
Image began releasing Southern Cross, a murder mystery set on a tanker and cargo ship in space, in March 2015. The collected edition of the first six issues was released in January 2016, and the series will begin with a new arc in 2016.
Though its plot meanders a bit in the first couple issues, the art really portrays the feeling of claustrophobia — all of the series’ characters are trapped inside a spaceship — and makes the reader feel pressured to continue. The series is also, notably, written by a woman and stars a female protagonist.
Eisner Award winning comic writer Paul Tobin released his original series, Colder, back in 2012. In 2014, the series returned as an ongoing comic as Colder: The Bad Seed. In September 2015, Dark Horse began running Colder: Toss the Bones, a follow up comic. Though all three series were addictive and disturbing, Tobin’s love for body horror, and his horrifying villain Nimble Jack are in full force in Toss the Bones. The Toss the Bones collected edition is set for release in May.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Who knew the spin-off series from Afterlife With Archie would have become one of the most terrifying new comics of the year? It’s fun to read a comic committed to horror in its most classic sense, with violence and dread threatening to uproot a small town and its innocent inhabitants. Somehow, the Sabrina the Teenage Witch whom many of us recognize as a sparkling, funny heroine has found herself in horrors through which she may not be able to work, and the resulting comic is riveting. The new issue of Sabrina is in comic stores this week.