Three full months have come and gone since the calendar called for a swap, and inside of those three months we’ve seen a few kick ass movies (GET OUT, SPLIT, THE DEVIL’S CANDY and FREAK OUT are among the years’ finest, thus far). That’s enough to keep most of us interested, but it may not be all that hardcore comic fans have been hoping for. For those who’ve been on the hunt for stellar genre comics, we’ve got you covered on 2017 recommendations!
DARKNESS VISIBLE (IDW)
IDW gets the ball rolling quickly with this one, and as has become customary, they do so in brilliant fashion. DARKNESS VISIBLE puts monsters of all assortments on center stage for the world to see. That’s right, man and monster live among one another (actual relation runs an interesting parallel, as well) in this witty story that comes sprinkled with a hint of dark humor the older crowd will cling to and some charm that’s likely to work well for the more sensitive readers. The insanity of the story should make for a pretty unanimous win for all. And if you’re thinking the idea of man and monster makes for more than an interesting enough conflict to push the narrative forward, get ready for deeper, more detailed conflict, an absolute must-see villain in Nathan Ulescu, a powerful, devilish brute that has virtually zero compassion, and uber-cop/dad, Daniel Aston, who just might have a little secret to spring on readers. This is one of, if not the best new book on the market, so you’d be wise to seek it out as soon as humanly possible.
ALIENS: DEFIANCE VOLUME #1 (Dark Horse)
There are a few ALIEN books on the market right now, and not a one fails to impress. While it’s still a joy to see that the beef between the PREDATOR and the ALIEN is alive and actively explored, I’m always a sucker for a good old fashioned ALIEN solo story. Well, plenty of synthetics and a single struggling soldier are around to be torn to shreds, but you know what I mean – the big baddies aren’t sharing time with the PREDATOR, or any other major monsters for that matter. The utilization of a nearly synthetic-exclusively crew helps to set the story apart from others. Brian Wood’s story also helps make this one special, as does the often perfectly bleak and grimy artwork, provided by Tristan Jones, Riccardo Burchielli and Tony Brescini. You may be familiar with the book, as Dark Horse delivered in single issues through 2016. In 2017 you’ve got a great, simple method of getting yourself submersed in the book with a new beautiful trade paperback release that collects the first six issues. Whether you keep riding the ship through 2017 is on you, but chances are this one will reel you right in.
THE BELFRY (Image)
Gabriel Hardman’s new one-shot, THE BELFRY feels like a preemptive strike, the beginning of an unspeakably epic dark saga. The only problem is, we haven’t gotten to that saga, yet, and we can only know if Hardman plans on delivering it as time passes. Here’s hoping he does, because this little book is as black as night, and teases an astounding vampire tale that could very well become the finest bloodsucker book we’ve had the joy of consuming since Steve Niles’ brilliant and bloody affair, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. You’re not going to get many spoilers here, because there isn’t a whole lot to speak on. The book feels like an introduction more than anything else, but the fact that there’s no fluff, and no lightening of the content to appeal to a certain target audience is a great quality. Here’s hoping we get lucky and Hardman makes a swift return with an extension of this unsettling story.
DEAD INSIDE (Dark Horse)
We don’t get a lot of hardcore murder mysteries in the medium, so when an insanely good thriller that presents a perplexing puzzle to be solved does arrive in comic book form, we stop what we’re doing to get a peek. Right now, we’re stuck, staring at Dark Horse’s absolutely riveting new story, DEAD INSIDE. How does a miniature man of miniscule proportions get the physical best of a dominating 300-plus pound monstrosity? Better yet, how does he get into his prison cell, with a massive steak knife, and then get the best of him? It’s a great question that the impressive collective of writer John Arcudi, and artist Tony Fejzula chuck in our direction, and watching the answers slowly pieced together has been nothing short of glorious. If you’ve yet to jump on the wagon, you’re not too far behind to be deterred; we’re only a few short but stellar issues in.
JUDGE DREDD: CRY OF THE WEREWOLF (IDW – Reprint)
This is the first of our two big throwback picks to jump into this year. The CRY OF THE WEREWOLF story itself originally saw release ages ago and did indeed do well with fans, but it’s truly gained a strange second life over the last year, and that second life didn’t go unnoticed by IDW, who wasted little time in issuing a re-release once buzz again kicked up out of the blue in 2016. We should all be thankful for that strange spike in fan interest, because we’re now able to easily access a story that can be a serious pain in the ass to get a hold of. And it just so happens to be a top notch story that drops Dredd into the bowels of the Undercity to tangle with a massive pack of lycanthropic beasts. This is a beautiful book that’s about to open the eyes of a few horror fans out there that might not be aware of how brutal JUDGE DREDD can be.
MONSTERS UNLEASHED (Marvel)
Fans of this book seem a bit leery to openly admit it. That’s understandable, as the book qualifies as more of an action piece as opposed to a horror piece, and is definitely aimed at a younger crowd. But, given Marvel’s current state, the book is admittedly solid. Marvel’s been pumping out what many (myself included) would acknowledge as lazy, weird, and mediocre material; there are all kinds of different “Spider-Man’s”; Thor is a woman; Wolverine’s been relegated to just being an old man; Magneto fronts a b-lister (I actually like the lineup), kind of heroic X-Men/Avengers crew… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a weird world at Marvel, and if you grew up on these books in the ‘80s or ‘90s, you won’t recognize half of it. But, the guys at Marvel are extremely talented, and they’re trying to get something fresh going. For that they deserve applause… they just need a few more genuine winners to reel fans back in. MONSTERS UNLEASHED could be one of those books, especially with a stud like Cullen Bunn writing and the conventionally crisp Steve McNiven handling artistic duties. If the idea of a Lovecraftian crew of beasts tangling with Kaiju-inspired mammoths with an ‘80s action story as the framework intrigues you, you may want to pick up an issue of the book. If it doesn’t work for you, it could be a keeper for the offspring!
PENNY DREADFUL (Titan Comics)
Showtime gave us a major present when they uncorked PENNY DREADFUL on the masses in 2014. The show was designed with those who love vintage Universal film and classic monsters (from Dorian Gray to Frankenstein’s monster, the timeless beasts are present and accounted for), and it hits all the right notes. Naturally, we’re excited about Titan’s new prequel, which highlights the history between Vanessa Ives and Mina Harker. This is an awesome publisher with some strong titles under the belt already, and bringing the talent at Titan together with the characters we came to love and loathe in PENNY DREADFUL is a stellar idea that has a lot of us paying attention. There are a few major releases on deck this year, and PENNY DREADFUL is most certainly one of them!
ANNO DRACULA (Titan Comics)
Kim Newman has been busy wowing readers with his Anno Dracula series for more than 20 years. In fact, he may be riding a late career high, at this point, as his work is being eyed by a myriad of Hollywood creators for more than a single form of transfer. One of the transfers we’re itching to see is Titan’s new adaptation. Newman himself handles writing duties and he’s got some superb backup from the exceptional Paul McCaffrey, who puts together some absolutely amazing imagery. Together you’ve got a winning duo, and ANNO DRACULA stands to be the next major vampire story to successfully spread through a number of mediums. We’ll see what the films have to offer, eventually. In the meantime, we’ve got a sublime little book to invest in.
Marvel pulls off what feels like an impossible feat, landing on this list with a second certifiably strong genre book. After what feels like an eternity of stale and watered down horror titles filling shelves, Marvel Comics is finally really beginning to respect their power in today’s market. There are some amazing books being released these days, and as bewildering as it may seem, a lot of those books are horror. As for CARNAGE, it’s really more of an even mash-up of action and horror. The terror is often lost in frantic or elaborate battle sequences, but there’s charm here, and CARNAGE finally has a legitimately good solo book to boast about with his symbiotic buddies.
ALEISTER ARCANE (IDW – Reprint)
ALEISTER ARCANE initially hit the market more than a decade ago in 2004, and while hardcores leapt to scoop it up, it went unnoticed by far, far too many (quite possibly a result of the then-fairly recent market crash). IDW did us all a great service just a few months back when they released the story in trade paperback to close out 2016. You can still get your hands on this gorgeous story (it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful thanks to the flawless artwork of Breehn Burns) of a wronged horror host who unleashes brutal fury in death, and although it’s been around for such a long time, it’s still just the kind of material you can bank on hitting a nerve with a large demographic. Who doesn’t love a passionate, dedicated and a little bit crazy horror host? We need more of those in our lives, that’s why this one gets a major, major recommendation!