It’s been a good release week for fans of horror, as Dark Horse have dropped multiple titles. Whether you’re looking for something a bit weird, something that will get you thinking, or just a nice simple monster fest, these three new releases are worth your time.
Cold Bodies, written by Magdalene Visaggio, creator of the hit comic series Vagrant Queen, is an homage to the slasher horror films of the 1980s, albeit one with a strange, psychological twist to it.
The story focuses on Denise Stokes, a woman living in New York City in the early 1990s. She has a decent life working for a well paying magazine, and has a loving partner; but Denise carries a heavy past with her. A decade before, Denise was the only survivor of the deadly Winter Man massacre.
The Winter Man, and his crimes, have become a pop culture icon thanks to the film made based upon the murder spree that Denise survived. More films were spawned, and Denise watched as the most tragic and traumatic event of her life became another piece of entertainment for the masses, another film like Friday the 13th or Halloween. When a huge storm begins to roll into the city, and with a new Winter Man film on the horizon, Denise begins to feel her old fears resurfacing, as past trauma rears its head; but this time perhaps she has a reason to be afraid, as the Winter Man reappears.
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Cold Bodies sets itself up to be a simple slasher style story, yet manages to not only sidestep a lot of the conventions and cliches of the genre, but also turn many of the expectations on their head. Visaggio takes some risks with the storytelling, makes the survivor and her trauma the focus, and never revels in the blood and gore. The artwork, provided by Andrea Mutti, feels of the time too, with the art style being quite reminisent of comics from the 1990s. Mutti’s art style really comes to life in the winter scenes too, where the snowstorms and the overbearing whites lend the comic an almost ethereal glow.
This book is a great read for anyone who’s a fan of the slasher genre, but is tried of seeing the same kinds of stories where little effort has been put into the characters, and it’s all about the kills. An examination of the human mind and survivors guilt, Cold Bodies is a stand out piece.
Cold Bodies is out now from Dark Horse Comics.
Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon
I wasn’t aware of the Criminal Macabre series before picking this book up, I didn’t know that it was a franchise that has been around for more than thirty years, and that its lead character has appeared in stories across different mediums. Normally, this could spell disaster for a book, but thanks to the way Steve Niles writes this Cal McDonald outing you don’t actually need to have read anything that’s come before to enjoy it.
Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon opens with supernatural detective Cal McDonald being questioned by police about a series of murders. Having been caught in one of the murder scenes, they quite naturally suspect him of involvement. Cal starts to explain away the predicament the cops found him in with a story about a serial killer priest with a blood draining knife, demonic possessions, and a portal to hell itself.
The story of Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon is pretty straightforward, a tale of evil spirits and monsters from hell causing havoc on Earth, and the few people prepared to try to stand against them. If, like myself, this is your first introduction to Cal, it’s a really good read, as we see very early on that he’s a no-nonsense kind of man, someone who understands the evil lurking in the shadows of the world and is prepared to fight it at the risk of his own life. There’s a lot of action in the story, and some interesting characters that make it a pretty enjoyable read.
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Szymon Kudranski provides the art on the book, and has a wonderful style that lends itself really well to the story. The art is almost black and white, though not simple line drawings like some comics, as every panel is filled with shades of grey that really brings things to life. There are odd times where colour is used too, such as the bright reds of blood, and eerie purple of the demon portal, that make certain scenes jump off the page. It feels like a dark, noir story thanks in large part to the art.
Whether you’re new to Cal McDonald, or have been reading about the character for years, Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon is an entertaining and engaging read with some great visuals and a lot of flair.
Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon is out now from Dark Horse Comics.
Creeping introduces readers to the internet craze of creeping, where people sneak into abandoned, supposedly haunted locations and hunt around for ghosts whilst getting scared, not leaving the location until morning. We meet one friend group who have made creeping their new hobby: wanna-be internet star Petro, his best friend and rich boy Junjie, his medical student girlfriend Kiara, and Junjie’s girlfriend Izzy. The four of them have been looking for the one big thing that they can do together, and that will get Petro the internet stardom he wants.
When Petro hears about Draghici Asylum, an old medieval castle turned mental asylum, long abandoned in the Romania forests, he knows that it’s the perfect location. With a little convincing the four friends head off to Europe to experience adventure and fame. The four of them hire a local guide to show them the way to the Asylum, and soon begin to get creeped out in the eerie, remote location. When they arrive at the castle they begin to experience strange incidents, and when a huge storm hits and causes the rivers to burst they find themselves trapped at Draghici, and even worse, something there is hunting them.
Creeping is probably the most traditional horror story of the three here, and presents a pretty decent story of a group of teens trapped in a remote location being hunted by monsters. Zack Keller and Mike Richardson, the two writers on the book, do a good job of letting the reader get to know the characters, and a good portion of the book is spent just seeing the four of them in their normal lives before things go horribly wrong for them. The book understands that you don’t need to rush into things, that you can spend some time exploring the mundane before the horror begins, and that it can sometimes make the horror ever scarier.
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When things do get scary, however, Creeping is really quite good. The creatures that call Draghici home are some really cool monsters, with interesting designs, a neat origin, and some rather disturbing qualities to them. Whilst I was really happy that the book spent time building the tension before introducing them I wish it could have been a bit longer in the second half so that we could have seen more from these things.
The artwork is provide by Doug Wheatley and Rain Beredo, and is the most traditional comic art style of the three here. The book doesn’t really try anything different in a visual sense, and isn’t too dissimilar to what you’d find in most decent quality big company comic books. This isn’t a criticism, though, as the artwork is solid throughout with clear character designs, some great locations, and wonderfully scary monsters.
If you’re a fan of monster stories and love Gothic, scary locations, Creeping is a great read. It’s also a great look into Internet fads, the sometimes destructive nature of the drive to become famous and recognised, and surprisingly, about coming to accept yourself and to be proud of who you are even if some people consider you to be different.
Creeping is out now from Dark Horse Comics.