It's Wednesday, My Dudes: Spooky Comic Round-Up August/September 2018

The last few weeks, I've been a bit off my comics-game. Heck, I missed the last two Wednesdays, and the weeks before that were all relatively small for new comics, and didn't hold my attention enough to find them worth the time to review. Some weeks, there's just no OOMPH, you know? However, it seems like in my anticipation to leave the country and during my actual leave of absence, I actually missed out on some pretty cool stuff. And what's more, a lot of it has that creepy vibe that I live for, perfect for the spooky mood I'm feeling as the season starts to turn from the blistering heat of summer to the delightuflly dreary autumn. Does the fact that almost all of them begin with a B mean something? Almost certainly negative. Is the release of a spate of decidedly weird comics a coincidence? Probably not, but if this is a prelude to more thriller, horror, and downright strange comics coming out this fall season, I'm in! So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to some of the newest and most intriguing comics of the last few weeks.

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1, Dark Horse Comics


A heroic pack of canines known as the Wise Dogs set off on a mission to clean up a Pennsylvania corridor plagued by seemingly unrelated occult disturbances that include a fire salamander and a horde of mutant lurkers. A link is found among the various disturbances, leading our heroes to a mountain village inhabited by a survivalist witch-cult who have discovered the existence of a "Blood Lure" attracting occult forces, creatures, and many more terrors to Burden Hill!

If you're not familiar with Beasts of Burden, the series is made up of various short stories and miniseries following a team of intelligent animals that investigate different paranormal events that occur in their small neighborhood of Burden Hill. If you're an animal lover of any kind, particularly a dog lover, as well as a fan of the paranormal, I can't imagine anything more perfect. In previous installments of the series, we're treated to everything from werewolves to witches infesting the small town and its surrounding area. A good chunk of the Beast of Burden stories were recently collected in the trade paperback Animal Rites, but for the most part, I think you can pick up almost any Beasts of Burden story and hop right in, figuring out most of the context easily. In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, a group of the Elder Wise Dogs are out doing damage control after a fire elemental salamander is caught in a suspicious trap covered in strange occult symbols. While investigating the trap, which at first seems crude to the wise dogs of the Burden area, they quickly realize that whoever set this trap may be more cunning than they imagined. Although this issue is without Jill Thompson's beautiful illustrations and muted color palettes, Benjamin Dewey does a good job of stepping into her shoes, and writer Evan Dorkin captures the voices and personalities of different characters and different breeds perfectly, as always. If you like your horror with four legs and fur, definitely hop on to Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men (or pick up the Animal Rites collection!).

Beyonders #1, Aftershock Comics


A young boy obsessed with crop circles and cryptography finds his boring life turned upside-down when he discovers that all of his conspiracy theories are true, sending him on the ultimate treasure hunt for an ancient secret spanning thousands of years. What is the connection between a lost mountaineer, an indecipherable manuscript, and the lost library of Alexandria? How is this connected to a one-eyed, flatulent Welsh Corgi and endless plates of corned beef sandwiches? Find out in... Beyonders!

The first panels of Beyonders open with "Okay, pay attention because this is complicated. There'll be a quiz at the end." And this statement is truer than you would imagine. With the out-there conviction of the best Youtube conspiracy theorist - the kind that actually makes you believe what they're saying, both entertaining and informing - Beyonders spends its first few pages weaving together the seemingly unrelated (on the surface) stories of George Mallory, who attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1924 to the village of Avebury in Southern England to the mysterious death of Ricky McCormick who died with an unsolved cipher in his pocket, to a puzzling ancient battery... and the list goes on and on. Seriously, some of these people, places, and things I've heard of, and others are new to me, and I'm dying to look them all up, to see what if anything was created solely for the comic, and what it all means. I guess that makes me a bit like our protagonist, teenage Jacob Tate, who spends basically all his time stringing together these obscure subjects while living in Alaska with his incredibly mundane aunt and uncle, and pondering the state of his future. Unable to connect with folks outside of random Omegle-style encounters, he finally meets a girl that seems to get him... before the power goes out. And when they meet again, it's in a very unexpected way, to say the least. To put the icing on the cake, the issue is sprinkled throughout with hidden symbols and clues that are meant to be strung together and emailed in, with the chance to win a real prize, Swordquest style. If puzzles and conspiracy theories are your thing, you have to give Beyonders a try.

Black Badge #1, Boom! Studios


Among their organization, the Black Badges are the elite; the best of the best. They are feared even by the other badges. The missions they take are dangerous, and they will only get worse as their leader's attention is split between their mission objectives and tracking down a lost team member. A team member who disappeared years ago, presumed dead.A haunting look at foreign policy, culture wars and isolationism through the lens of kids who know they must fix the worlds that adults have broken.

Less creepy and a bit more of an action thriller, nontheless Black Badge is a worthy entry to this list. I feel like Black Badge, by Matt Kindt, is sort of an anti-Lumberjanes. Instead of a feel-good young adult comic featuring a cast of main characters going on thrilling but mostly ultimately harmless adventures with the occasional mythical creature thrown in for good measure, Black Badge is about a troupe of Boy Scouts that are in actuality akin to spies, employed by a secret, presumably government organization of adults. With Black Badge, the logic is that children will always be underestimated, and boy scouts even more so, giving them an advantage that they can exploit when needed. And you know what? Pretty solid logic, as this issue puts on display for us as our four intrepid troops "stumble" their way into North Korean territory long enough to signal to a plane flying overhead where to drop a bomb. Intense, right? I only spent about a year as a Girl Scout, when I was a kid, it just wasn't for me. But if there was a chance I could have been recruited into a secret organization the way the boys have been, then I might have stuck with it a little longer. With plenty of potential for international intrigue and a surprising amount of political thrills despite the prepubescent main characters, as well as lots of fodder for emotional development in the first issue alone, I recommend Black Badge for folks who want to read a "dark" or "mature" take on the nature of one of America's most revered institutions for young folks.

Bone Parish #1, Boom! Studios


A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, while the demand only rises. While the crime families wage war, users begin to experience terrifying visions of the dead coming back to life-through them.

It goes without saying that I love just about everything Cullen Bunn writes, especially when he's doing horror stories, like The Unsound, also from Boom, which came out a little over a year ago (and if I remember correctly, was actually totally unrelated from the "listen-to-it-and-you-die-within-a-year"-Unsound that I was familar with). In Bone Parish, Cullen Bunn blends Hatian Voodoo with the high-stakes underground world, as we are introduced to a hot new drug simply referred to as "Ash" on the streets of New Orleans. Even a small amount can have you fully experiencing your wildest dreams with all five senses, and interest in the product isn't just bringing in new customers from the next town over - outfits from big cities like New York and more are hoping to buy the operation out from under the Winters family, and they're not likely to play nice. Oh, and did I mention that Ash is made out of corpses, (among other things)? Yeah, it's like that. A new take on Zombie powder, grave robbing, unearthly highs and high stakes business transactions make Bone Parish a hard to put down read.

Border Town #1, Vertigo (DC)


When a crack in the border between worlds releases an army of monsters from Mexican folklore, the residents of Devil's Fork, AZ, blame the ensuing weirdness-the shared nightmares, the otherworldly radio transmissions, the mysterious goat mutilations-on "God-dang illegals." With racial tensions supernaturally charged, it's up to new kid in town Frank Dominguez and a motley crew of high school misfits to discover what's really going on in this town torn between worlds.

Taking place in the town of Devil's Fork, Arizona, no one is safe from the mysterious creatures attacking citizens of all kinds. Doesn't matter if you're a gun-toting "patriot" or an immigrant family trying to cross the border into the US, you, too, could fall victim to whatever is preying on those who dare step into the darkness of the desert. Enter our protagonist, Frank, a Mexican-American boy struggling to grasp his heritage in a social climate where his light-skin alienates him from many of his classmates, and unfortunately draws others to him. Unafraid to portray police and Richard Spencer-lookalikes as literal monsters and play with the sociopolitical tensions that remain at the forefront of our constant news cycle, Border Town is that rare horror comic that focuses on the cryptid rather than the monster, the ghost, the vampire, or the serial killer (although I'm not gonna pretend, I love all of those, too!), and manages to keep a lighthearted and humorous tone at the same time. With Brujería dancing at the edges of the story here too, welcome to Border Town, and do your best to steer clear of the Chupacabras.

House Amok #1, Black Crown (IDW)


Ten-year-old fraternal twin Dylan Sandifer and her family have fallen down a rabbit hole full of secret implants, conspiracy theories, Mandela effects, extradimensional invaders, and organ thieves. As the attacks against them intensify, the Sandifers light out on a cross-country search for answers and salvation, blazing a bloody path of torture, arson and murder. Can young Dylan save her family from these delusions... or is this ornate conspiracy actually true?

House Amok is a very special kind of creepy comic. Have you ever heard of Folie a Deux? It's understood to be a kind of shared psychosis between two or more people, sometimes even sharing actual hallucinations. One of the most well-known cases occurred in 2008, that of Ursula and Sabina Eriksson, which I won't summarize here, but you should definitely look it up. House Amok shows us twin sisters Ollie and Dylan, as well as their older brother Tyler and their parents. Homeschooled, Ollie and Dylan seem to have more or less normal lives, although the two girls are often referred to, and refer to each other as "special". Besides that sort of psychic one-ness often known to occur between twins, it's implied that Dillon and her family can see "sleeper-men", bulky man-like shapes with red hood-type heads, and we get the idea that perhaps she and her family are on the run from them. As the issue progresses, we get more and more inklings of exactly how not-normal Ollie and Dylan's life are, culminating in the scene we're actually showed at the beginning of the issue, with Ollie and Dylan shoplifting at a gas station store to lure the clerk out, where her parents knock him out and take him to a remote location to torture him. And the truly horrifying part? When, at the end of the issue, Dylan begins to "wake up", and realize how absolutely not okay her life has been up to this point; to be the only lucid and sane person in her family. A more psychological type of horror, rather than simply playing around with the idea of "am I crazy? or is everyone else?" they come right out and show you that yes, this entire situation is messed up beyond rationalization. Eliciting a feeling of sort of social claustrophobia, being pressed in on all sides by a family pushing you into their madness, House Amok was a real pleasant surprise for me, and one I'd suggest giving a try.

That's it for me and this round of spooky stories, I hope at least one of them has piqued your interest! With a wide variety of subject matter, I am actually pretty impressed at what's come out in this genre alone, and I'm hopeful that as we slip into spooky season (or if you're like me, unapologetic Pumpkin Spice season), there will be even more enticing horror fare to come. Again, apologies for a long absence from comics, but I hope this makes up for it!

Have you read any of these already? Did I miss something good? Leave a comment below or contact us on twitter! Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

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Miranda AKA Miramay Cosplay ✨ Member of @ominous_glitch, cohost of the XIII Club Podcast. Comic book store magical-girl clown. Self-deprecating comedic relief friend. Meganekko princess.