Welcome back, gals and pals, to another Comic Book Wednesday. Now, I feel like I've been spending a lot of time talking about superheroes lately, so I want to switch gears and take a look at some really excellent horror comics.
Now, I'll admit that my biggest love is the capes and cowls, but there's little better than a really killer (heehee) horror comic. In fact, my first big comic book obsession when I returned to the comics fold in high school was a horror comic: Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Yes, of course Sandman is so much more than just a horror book, but that is certainly the genre it's rooted in, and many of the early issues can be described as horror comics. Just take a look at the Corinthian. I know he gave me nightmares.
For me, a good piece of horror is more than just gore and guts (though, there are some great gore and guts books out there, don't get me wrong). It should have a strong psychological element to it. The book shouldn't just scare me, it should create an uncanny kind of terror, it should make me feel off-kilter, it should make me uneasy. That's the kind of horror I delight in being scared by.
Thankfully, there are many comic writers out there who create my kind of horror. Writers like Scott Snyder, Alan Moore, Robert Kirkman, and Steve Niles have done some really fantastic work (man, horror comics need more female creators, don't they?). But I want to talk about two of my very favorite horror comics: Locke & Key and Revival.
Let's start with....
Locke & Key (words by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez)
Some of you may have heard of Locke & Key. Those of you who haven't? Oh dear god, please finish the article, close your computer, and run to your local comic shop to pick up a copy. I'll admit, I came into this book late, and I really have no excuse. This book dropped during my first year working at the comic shop and I passed it up. "Meh," I thought to myself. "Cover looks kinda hokey. I'm going to go read Batman." Years later I read a copy of Hill's novel Horns, became obsessed with his writing and picked up Locke & Key.
Oh, what a fool 18-year-old Fishnets had been. Locke & Key is not just one of my favorite horror comics, it's one of my favorite comics period. It's right up there with Sandman. Not many books have that privilege.
The story centers on the Locke children: Tyler (17), Kinsey (15), and Bode (6). Their mother, Nina, has just moved them cross country to the ancestral Locke home, known as the Key House. Why the move? Well, in the first issue of the series, the Locke's father, Rendell, is brutally murdered by a former student (and classmate of Tyler's). In an attempt to escape the horrible memories, the Lockes move to Rendell's childhood home and try to start their lives with some sense of normalcy. It's a sad story: a father murdered by a deranged young man. But is that all it is?
Because not everything is normal at the Key House. While exploring, Bode finds a key that opens a mysterious door- one that, if you cross the threshold, turns you into a ghost.
And it doesn't stop there. There are more keys to be found in the Key House, and with each key the mystery surrounding the Lockes and their new home deepens. What are the keys? Where did they come from? Who is the strange woman (calling herself 'an Echo') at the bottom of the well? How does this all connect with their father's murder?
Besides having a wonderfully weird plot, Locke & Key also has some of the most well developed characters in comics. A major theme of the the first arc is how the Locke children individually deal with grief. Tyler blames his father's death on himself, and retreats deep inside. Kinsey attempts to 'normalize' herself in an attempt to smother her grief and feelings of helplessness. Bode, it seems to everyone, goes off into his own little fantasy world, though it's a fantasy that his siblings soon realize is a reality. Each character has a unique voice and their own sets of quirks that make them stand apart on the page. It doesn't feel like Hill is telling you the story of the Locke children. Rather, you feel like a spider in the corner, observing the comings and goings of the Key House.
The other stand-out feature of Locke & Key is the art. You know people who are mad scientists? Well, Gabriel Rodriquez is a mad artist, creating scenes that I only think I could fathom in my wildest dreams. His thick lines create a bold world, one he fills with rich detail. Every expression is pronounced, every body movement captured flawlessly. The surroundings feel real, and the horror elements even realer. There are times reading this book where I have felt my heart stop. Other times I have had to catch my breath with wonder. Often I have had to do both at the same time.
Locke & Key is nearing it's final issue. While that's sad, it's also good new for those of you who like their comic series already finished. The first five volumes are available in hardcover/softcover, and "Omega", the last story arc, should be along shortly in hardcover.
Revival (words by Tim Seeley, art by Mike Norton)
Revival crept in with last year's wave of amazing creator-owned comics that followed on the heels of Saga. I almost missed it as books like Saga, Fatale, and Manhattan Projects garnered a lot of attention, but I'm so glad that I managed to catch it. Revival titles itself a 'rural noir', but, in my opinion, the best way to describe it is a 'not-zombie story'.
What is a not-zombie you ask? I'll tell you. Revival is about a town in rural Wisconsin where one day (soon after Christmas) the dead come back to life. Not all the dead, mind you, but a large handful of people who should be firmly dead. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, they are all returned to life. Only these 'zombies' aren't monsters, they aren't crying out for brains, and they don't even want to bite you a little bit. They're just... well... them, shell-shocked and a little different due to the whole dying thing (though some with some death-inflicted injuries). Um. Ouch.
Flash forward a couple weeks and this barely-on-the-map town has garnered the attention of the entire world. From doomsday nuts to religious zealots to thrill seekers, suddenly everyone wants t0 go Wasau, WI. They can't though, considering the government, fearing disease, has quarantined the town. No one goes in, and no one goes out. But despite the fact that the dead live again, life goes on and that means that officer Dana Cypress still has crimes to investigate and murders to solve. However, the presence of the dead changes everything, and Dana is placed in charge of the 'Reviver Task Force'- dealing with, you guessed it, crimes involving the revived. However, this is not a 'monster of the week' sort of book. While Dana seeks to protect and serve her town, she is forced to untangle the own strings of her complicated life and how the revival of the dead tie into them.
Dana is a wonderful character, and is very much the noir protagonist. While the story arcs may revolve around the crimes Dana has to solve, the meat of the book is very much what is going on in her life. She's a single mom, she's got a complicated relationship with her father, and an even more complicated relationship with her sister Em (which then gets further complicated by the presence of the revived). She feels very real. She's not particularly special or stand-out, but she also doesn't feel like a husk of a character designed for the reader to picture themselves as. She's an ordinary woman in an incredible and horrifying situation.
Revival is definitely a slow burn kind of series (Seeley and Norton have estimated that it will be about as long as books like Y-The Last Man and Sweet Tooth), and the first volume leaves a lot of questions unanswered from the big "how did this happen?" to the more pressing "are the revived dangerous or unhinged?". However, you don't mind that these questions are left unanswered, you're too busy being drawn in by every facet of the mystery, whether it be the secret lives of the citizens of Wasau or the strange thing creeping around in the woods. It's just the kind of book that's a pleasure to read. All of the elements, from Seeley's natural dialogue to Norton's bleak-but-vivid depiction of the Midwest, come together to make something really special.
Revival has just entered its second year of publication. The first two volumes are currently available in softcover.
So, gals and pals, that's it for me this week. I hope you enjoyed it and are considering picking up some of these truly awesome horror books. What other genres are you guys interested in? I'd like to know what exactly I should be focusing CBW on. So please let me know what you want to hear about!
See you next Comic Book Wendesday!