Book Club Nominees

6 Comics Worth More Than a Thousand Horrific Words

by @SemaphoreRaven, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for July’s “Contains “Graphic” Imagery” category

One of my early formative experiences was puttering around my grade school library and happening upon a copy of *Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.* Being the poor naïve soul that I was, I opened it and promptly had the shit scared out of me by the most terrifying things I had seen in my life.

You all know the images of which I speak. Gammell’s black-and-white illustrations of decaying corpses, severed limbs, and spider-filled pimples haunt the memories of everyone who has ever seen them (and to the one or two people who are jumping on Google right now, I’m sorry.)  Besides causing some mild childhood trauma, that book also taught me an important lesson: when it comes to horror, a picture really is worth a thousand words and the words are all just screaming.

Completely unrelated to that, here are some horror comics.

Cover of Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV

Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done. (Goodreads)

Does “badass woman fights childhood demons with a chainsaw” sound like fun to you? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Destroyer by Victor LaValle

Destroyer by Victor LaValle

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein beseeched his creator for love and companionship, but in 2017, the monster has long discarded any notions of peace or inclusion. He has become the Destroyer, his only goal to eliminate the scourge of humanity from the planet. In this goal, he initially finds a willing partner in Dr. Baker, a descendant of the Frankenstein family who has lost her teenage son after an encounter with the police. While two scientists, Percy and Byron, initially believe they’re brought to protect Dr. Baker from the monster, they soon realize they may have to protect the world from the monster and Dr. Baker’s wrath. (Goodreads)

What if Frankenstein hadn’t been a mad scientist driven by hubris, but a mother driven by grief? Combine that with LaValle’s talent for retelling stories with fresh vision and righteous anger, and you’ve got a story that will stick with you.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët

Kerascoët’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join Princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization’s heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.  The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann’s story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over. Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society. (Goodreads)

There’s something especially unsettling about the juxtaposition of the cute and the grotesque, and this is a book full of both. To quote a review I came across, “It’s like the Borrowers found themselves stranded in Lord of the Flies, without either cancelling out the essence of the other.”

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote

Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote

A haunted house story for the 21st century, INFIDEL follows an American Muslim woman and her multi-racial neighbors who move into a building haunted by entities that feed off xenophobia. (Goodreads)

To paraphrase renowned racist H.P. Lovecraft, “The strongest kind of fear is xenophobia.” While I don’t think this the kind of take Howard was talking about, xenophobia is indeed a nightmare and the combination of it with a classic haunted house narrative sounds intriguing as hell.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Bitter Root by David F. Walker

Bitter Root by David F. Walker

Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family must come together, or watch the human race fall to untold evil. (Goodreads)

Monster hunting, black folklore, the Harlem Renaissance, and good old-fashioned family drama, brought to you by an all-black creative team? Oh hell yes.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of These Savage Shores by Ram V

These Savage Shores by Ram V

Two centuries after the first European ship sailed to the Malabar Coast and made landfall at Calicut, the East India Company seeks to secure its future along the lucrative Silk Route, in the year 1766. An old evil now sails aboard a company ship, hoping to make a home in this new found land. But he will soon find that the ground along the Indus is an ancient one with daemons and legends far older than himself. Along These Savage Shores, where the days are scorched and the nights are full of teeth. (Goodreads)

You’ve heard of vampires as metaphors, but have you heard of them as a metaphor for the evils of British colonialism in India?

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote. Join HOWL Society on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 to begin discussion!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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