Fri
Oct 28 2016 3:30pm

Four Color Criminal Nightmares: Comics to Get Crime Fans in the Halloween Spirit

October is upon us, which is the season where we celebrate ghosts, goblins, and all things scary. October is a great time to be a horror fan, but it’s also a pretty good time to be a crime fiction fan as well because tales about criminal and supernatural underworlds blend together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Sometimes they combine in subtle and delightful ways like the Slasher sub-genre (which includes films like the Halloween and Scream series), where normal people—often teens—must contend with rampaging serial killers. Other times, it's a full on collision where cops and criminals must confront forces of unspeakable evil.

These crime/horror mashup tales can be told via a number of a different mediums, but for my money, some of the most effective and fun tales that mesh the two highly compatible genres together are done via the four color world of comics. So here are four crime/horror comics to get you into the spirit of the Halloween season!


Fatale

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Published by Image Comics

Some readers of this article might already be familiar with the work of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips thanks to their fantastic Image Comics series, Criminal—a noirish crime series that follows the interrelated exploits of a number of cons, thugs, and ne’er do wells. In Fatale, the creators stretch those same muscles, but they also expertly tackle the world of Lovecraftian-style horror by telling the tale of Jo, a seemingly immortal archetypical femme fatale who is being hunted by a sinister cult.

Over the course of the series’ 24 issues, Brubaker and Phillips visit a number of different time periods as they unveil and deepen the horrific mystery surrounding Jo and the men who become ensnared in her world, which includes the ‘30s, ‘50s, ‘70s, and ‘90s. There’s even some flashback issues set during the Wild West, with some going as far back as the 13th century. My favorite story arc of the series is the one set in Hollywood during the ‘70s, which involved satanic cults and 16mm films. It was creepy, lurid fun.

The series is available in its entirety in two deluxe hardcovers or five softcover collections: Volume 1: Death Chases Me; Volume 2: The Devil’s Business; Volume 3: West of Hell; Volume 4: Pray for Rain; and Volume 5: Curse of the Demon.
 

Moonshine

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
Published by Image Comics

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso might be another creative combo familiar to crime fans. For a decade they worked on the sprawling crime saga/secret history of America series 100 Bullets, which was published by DC Comics’ Vertigo Imprint. Now, they’re back together for a new and equally fascinating series that mixes a period crime tale with backwoods horror.

In Moonshine, Azzarello and Risso take readers back to the days of prohibition, where organized crime created a criminal empire by keeping the illegal booze Americans thirsted for flowing. In the series’ debut issue, readers are introduced to Lou Pirlo, a New York mobster sent to West Virginia by his mercurial boss to negotiate a deal with one of Appalachia’s best moonshiners. Complicating the deal is the fact that the cunning moonshiner and his family don’t want to negotiate and are willing to protect their operation with the sinister, supernatural secret they share.

Moonshine just started this month. So issue #1 is available now in comic shops everywhere or digitally. Issue #2 hits stores November 16th.
 

Hack/Slash

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Various
Published by Image Comics

Hack/Slash began as writer Tim Seeley's homage to his favorite horror movies; both good and awesomely bad. It’s a series that mixes horror, large doses of humor, and genuine moments of pathos and tragedy to create something that’s both fun and somewhat moving.

The premise to the series will be somewhat familiar to fans of the Slasher genre: a “final girl” named Cassie Hack survives a terrifying encounter with a monstrous serial killer known as “The Lunch Lady” (who tragically happens to be her own mother) and goes on a cross-country crusade to investigate and eradicate the strange phenomenon that is creating undead serial killers known as Slashers. 

She’s assisted by her friend and hulking partner Vlad, who’s like Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series if he were a kinder, gentler soul. Together, they and a network of friends and survivors take on a whole host of twisted killers. Most of them are original creations, but occasionally Cassie and Vlad do run afoul of some celebrity antagonists, like the homicidal doll Chucky or Herbert West from the Reanimator series of films.

The entire series is available in five omnibus collections. A spin-off/sequel titled Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain, co-written by Seeley’s brother Steve and writer Michael Moreci and featuring art by Emilio Laiso, was released last year. It was a fun and beautifully drawn book, but to me, it felt more like a pulp horror story instead of the crime/horror/humor feel of the original.
 

Nailbiter

Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Mike Henderson
Published by Image Comics

Nailbiter is one of my favorite comics being published today. It’s riveting premise is basically a mixture of the crime and psychological horror of the movie Seven with the crime and eerie small-town mysteries of Twin Peaks. Each issue offers intriguing action, a fascinating cast of characters, and clues that deepen the wider mysteries of the book.

The central mystery of Nailbiter asks the question: Why has the town of Buckaroo, Oregon given birth to 16 of the world’s most infamous serial killers? Investigating that mystery is a cast of fascinating and charismatic characters that includes: Nicholas Finch, a driven and haunted NSA Agent who comes to Buckaroo to find his vanished friend; Edward Charles Warren, an acquitted serial killer known as the Nailbiter who knows a lot more about Buckaroo’s secrets than he’s letting on; and Buckaroo’s Sheriff, Sharon Crane, whose past is tied to Warren’s.

There are currently four graphic novel collections of Nailbiter: Volume 1: There Will Be Blood; Volume 2: Bloody Hands; Volume 3: Blood in the Water; and Volume 4: Blood Lust. The series’ 5th volume, Bound By Blood, will be available November 2nd, and that same day, the monthly comic comes back from a brief hiatus with the release of Nailbiter #26, a special . . . Christmas issue.

Want more comics? Read Dave Richards's primer on the adolescent assassins in Deadly Class!

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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