Publisher: Avatar Press
Release Year: 2012
When it comes to post-apocalyptic zombie adventures you usually think of The Walking Dead. Crossed gives the reader a fantastic adventure in a different way than most zombie comics do. We’re not getting the entire picture or seeing a group of people trying to save the world. We get a slice of life pieces in different time periods and the actual “zombie” virus is never explained, just theorized. The first 40 chapters range from different time periods of the virus invasion of the crossed. The whole comic saga is made up of 4-6 issue mini-series and some are picked back up later on.
The best part of the series is the gore and gruesome detail. There’s tons of nudity, sex, rape, murder, torture, and everything you would expect in a zombie apocalypse. The art is graphics, detailed, and gorgeous. You can tell real dead bodies and gore was used as a reference because I have never seen a comic with this much realistic detail. The crossed are ruthless, kill and have sex with everything in sight, and love pain. It’s passed on via bodily fluids and that’s all we know. There’s no cure, no stopping or slowing it down.
Honestly, there was never a name for the virus either and I kind of like that. The virus is a mystery throughout and everyone is just trying to survive the best they can and hope to wait for the crossed to die out. There was one problem with this series and that was issue 40-60 or so. These 20 issues must have forgotten what the whole series was about and became more about internal non-crossed affairs and the crossed took a back seat. It got boring and really annoying, but after around issue 60, it did pick back up.
Overall, Crossed: Badlands is one of the best comic series I have ever read, but it’s not for the light-hearted. This is a graphic, gruesome, and extremely explicit series but that’s what I love about it. You won’t find a single comic this insane.
Publisher: Basement Comics
Writer: Budd Root
Artist: Bradley Walton
Release Date: 12/1993-6/1995
Cavewoman isn’t just a cheesy comic about a scantily clad woman in a snakeskin bikini. Surprisingly, Cavewoman is very interesting and has quite the deep plot and character development that the big AAA comics usually have. Cavewoman (Meriem Cooper) was sent back in time 70 million years when the dinosaurs roamed with her grandfather to escape the government. The grandfather had built a time machine, but to time travel you had to enhance your body on a molecular level to survive the travel. The made Meriem extremely power, thick skinned, and even faster.
The first six issues tell a tale of Marshville, Oregon as it gets transported back in time where Meriem is. Dinosaurs slaughter the townsfolk and Meriem must help save them. It’s a story about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. The story also concentrates on Meriem’s background origins and does a good job of getting her character across. You really grow to love Meriem and respect her for the strong and dependable woman she is. The backstory is told mainly through her diary pages that we see a little boy read in her cave. They are written from when she was a child and it adds character and depth that you wouldn’t expect from a low budget comic. There was a lot of thought and love put into this series and it shows with every panel.
With this comic being low budget; it looks the part. There is no color here and the drawings aren’t the best, but it gets across an interesting art style that sticks with the series throughout. All the characters are rather strong and the dino/human survival combo works really well here. Cavewoman is one of the better indie comics I have read in years and I plan to read the entire series.
Publisher: Boom! Comics
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Christian Francis
Release Date: 08/2014-01/2015
The original 90’s Hellraiser comics were the best place to get more Hellraiser outside of the movies. The big flaw with that series is that there was no overarching storyline, but dozens and dozens of mini stories involving the Lemarchand puzzle box. The Dark Watch strayed away from this and had a great overarching story, and sadly, Bestiary tries to mix the two with poor results.
A ragtag team of poachers have trapped Pinhead in a cage and are trying to take his pins for bounties at the Vatican. Pinhead of course triumphs in the end and this is stretched out over 6 comics. There is literally no plot and no twists or interesting storyline. Between these are more mini stories involving the Lemarchand boxes and the same result from the 90’s comic ensues. We get a couple of interesting mini-stories but some either have awful art or terrible stories. I really don’t think this format works for this series despite it being forced anyway.
Bestiary is completely passable even for the hardcore fans. There’s nothing here you can’t seen before and nothing here that you will miss, not even new lore.
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer: Brandon Seifert
Artist: Tom Garcia
Release Date: 9/2013-09/2014
Hellraiser is a fantastic series with great lore and characters. The visual style is what’s most appealing about the franchise with gruesome deaths and interesting and horrific character designs. Clive Barker is one of my favorite horror authors and Hellraiser is right up there among my favorites. The Dark Watch takes a different approach to the series; rather than a bunch of mini-stories The Dark Watch consists of 12 issues that have an overarching story.
The Dark Watch is about the war on Hell amongst itself. The Lemarchand puzzles play a smaller role in this series as we concentrate on characters and story which is a good change of pace over the 90’s Hellraiser comics. A ragtag team of cons and criminals just so happen to meet their goal of collecting every Lemarchand puzzle box in existence to prevent Hell’s Cenobites from recruiting more legionaries in which they think are to star a war with Earth. Pushing aside the smaller character back stories, the war isn’t supposed to be waged with Earth but with another circle of Hell. Leviathan has a larger grand plan then what the Cenobites think, and of course there’s lots of gore to help tell this tale.
I felt 12 issues was just enough to the the story and it had a satisfying ending. The characters were great and everything made complete sense with just enough mystery to continue on to the next issue. With three sides that the comic switched between, it kept the story well paced and always on its toes rather than trodding through endless amounts of boring dialog. The art is fantastic and the death and torture scenes are incredible and not usually seen in main stream comics.
If you are a fan of Hellraiser, didn’t like the 90’s comics, or love horror in general then The Dark Watch is an excellent series for you. Knowing some back story on the Hellraiser lore and mythos will help understand the story more as it doesn’t explain most of what goes on in this universe. With that said, dive in and enjoy this gory ride.
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Release Date: 01/2009-07/2009
Locke & Key was a fantastic murder mystery and a game of cat and mouse. Never had that scenario been so satisfying in a comic. Every character was memorable and each panel actually meant something moved the story forward. I have to give the series credit for this as it’s one of the fastest moving comics I have ever read.
Head Games is all about finding another key the Lockehouse. This one allows the user to open their head and take out memories and put new ones in. It’s a very strange concept, one that is completely unbelievable, but in the world of Locke & Key it is. The main villain, Dodge, is still trying to keep all his murders a mystery and we finally know his ultimate goal, to open the black door, but why and what’s inside is never revealed in these chapters.
There are more murders, the Locke family goes through more turmoil and strife, and the series continues to be a wonderful page flipper. The best thing about Head Games is Dodge being able to trick everybody and hide all his schemes when it’s all right under everyone’s nose. It’s hard to explain all the minor details that make this series so addictive, but I will say that Head Games could have been made better if the plot advanced just a tad more and didn’t feel so much like the first series it could have been perfect.
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Scott Tuft
Artist: Attila Futaki
Release Date: 08/2011-02/2012
Another one of my favorite murder mysteries series is Severed. This comic has extreme suspense and keeps a carrot dangling in front of you the whole way. The story is being told by the main character who is much older. We see the ending and get caught up to the present which is a great way to add mystery. A man tells a story about how he lost his arm, he receives a letter in the mail and it brings back memories, an enemy who haunted him and nearly ruined his childhood. The boy is a fiddler who wants to meet up with his father in Chicago to play with him in concerts. His mother forbids it, however he runs away and hitches on a train.
Our main protagonist runs into many problems, but befriends a girl named Sam who disguises herself as a boy to keep pervs away from her. They make it through thick and thin, but the murder part comes in as a strange cannibalistic man with razer sharp teeth (this is never explained, nothing super natural here, maybe he sharpened them?) and he loves stalking children. He convinces the children to let him help them get back to Mississippi (as his father mysteriously isn’t in Chicago and went back) only to end up with a twist ending that I won’t spoil.
The suspense is in the fact that this man is disguised as someone who wants to help the children, but the reader knows who he really is. There are several close calls and scenes that lead you on to think he’s about to kill the children when the suspense is released. It keeps the pages turning and this is key in comics like these. The art style is great and is reminiscent of a 1940’s industrial America which is great to look at.
The comic is sinister, sick, twisted, and any other word that can describe a cannibalistic murderer who stalks children. The series closes with a great finally and I felt like there was a balanced beginning middle and ending. The sensitive subject matter makes this a very raw and real comic that can actually happen even to this day. It’s an eye opener and something that will keep you thinking about all day long.
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Release Date: 2/2008-7/2008
Murder mysteries are great for comics as they feel like movie stills playing out before you. Locke & Key is a reverse murder mystery as we know who the killer is in the very beginning, and the family knows, and is trying to run away from him. A disfunctional family living in Southern California are victims of their father being visciously murdered by two mentally ill teens. What the oldest son, Tyler, goes through as well as his younger brother and sister, is heart wrenching.
We follow the murderer who ends up in high security juvie and he ends up escaping via super natural means. The youngest brother in the family, Bode, discovers he can rip his soul from his body through a magical door and turn into a ghost. His family won’t believe him, in fact every family doesn’t believe each other about anything, and this leads to some tragic deaths and a lot of events that could have been prevented. Seeing this family tear itself apart is frustrating in a satisfying way; it keeps you on the edge.
The story has a satisfying ending with a perfect cliffhanger that opens up entirely new chapter and can potentially expand the story (which it did with later series), but my favorite part about this comic was the gore and graphic violence as well as the pure insanity of the murderer and his ruthless killings. The comic is a serious page turner and is perfectly paced with an excellent crescendo.
Overall, Locke & Key is a wonderful horror comic about the super natural, a being which we don’t ever get to know more about until later in the series, and real life mortality. A family that clearly loves each other but can’t trust each other worth a dime just makes this comic horrible and wonderful all at the same time.