This week things get a bit horrific as we look at three fantastic horror books that range from: creepy one-eyed monsters in Chris Askham’s U’Grot, to haunted theme parks in Ghost Island to bloodthristy witches in space in The Last Hunt.
U’Grot (Chris Askham)
The tale of a girl and a one eyed tentacled monster, may sound like another Lovecraftian inspired creature feature, but U’Grot creator Chris Askham has given the story a level of pathos and emotional depth that means it is much more than a simple monster tale. The story starts with our heroine, a young girl, waking up in the wilderness and finding a church where she takes refuge. We aren’t sure where she has come from, or the world around her, but within the church she finds a giant one eyed octopus creature who she calls U’Grot as that is the closest to the guttural wail it emits. The two create an unlikely bond and inevitably things don’t work out quite as planned. U’Grot has a very slow and very deliberate pace, which allows the key moments to breath and really take shape, so that when things do finally happen, they have real meaning and significance – the scene where the adults show up being a prime example. There is very little dialogue, but the story is told via a series of exposition boxes, however they feel almost unnecessary as you can take in the story just from the visuals, which are truly stunning. It feels almost Becky Cloonan-esque in places, with a cartoonish realism to it, but with a looser line that feels almost pencil sketch like at times. The monochrome colour scene certainly helps this impression. As does the iconic design of U’Grot. This is a delightfully understated book that mixes horror and mystery perfectly and haunts your memory, staying with you long after you finish reading it.
Ghost Island 2 (Afterlight Comics)
Joseph Oliveira’s Ghost Island was one of our favourite horror books of 2017 and we were really excited to see how the story progresses in this second instalment. As the protagonists arrive at the ghostly theme park, things immediately go from bad to worse as Mason’s son disappears and leads him down a very dangerous path. While we also learn more about Psychic Josh’s past and why he has a bunch of journos looking to discredit him. This issue also ramps up the gore and violence as he encounters his first meeting with one of the ghosts who happens to be a family murdering butcher. Mixing the ghosts back story with Josh’s own see artist Anabela Turlione employ a mix of styles to help balance the present with the past, going from ink splattered artwork in the present day to a cleaner line in the past. While this works well, it shows some of the flaws in her work and a mix of cartoonish faces with gory and bloody scenes feels a little jarring in places. As a second issue this does a solid job of building the story and taking the characters in a new direction, but without ever eclipsing the strong debut issue. There’s enough in it to keep you coming back for more scares though.
The Last Hunt #1-4 (Amigo Comics)
We were huge fans of Paul Moore’s work on Planet of Daemons (including him as one of our indie showcase stars in issue #5 of The Pull List) and so were very excited to see him working on new horror sci-fi book from Amigo Comics. With a story from writers Henna Kesola and Ken Janssens, it sees a bunch of misfit space salvagers crash land on earth in the 23rd century which is now a derelict junkyard where they encounter a group of scientists who are testing to see if Earth is inhabitable again. However they get more than they bargain for as the scientists aren’t who they claim to be and turn out to be a trio of blood thirsty witches as the crew have landed in Salem Massachusetts and proceed to terrorise the crew. Its’s a really fun and trashy horror sci-fi story with a very strong Aliens vibe running throughout – from the bickering crew right down to the angular drop ships. Kesola and Janssens aim for a quite adult tone for the book, with lots of swearing and even some sexual content, which definitely gives the book a bit of an edge, but it never quite manages to get the tone right and in the end feels like it is trying a bit too hard to be racy and doesn’t quite get there. The story also leaps around a bit from one issue to another which can be a bit tricky to follow. Moore’s work is excellent as always and manages to get a fantastic balance between the horrific elements (especially the witches) and the sleek sci-fi of the spaceships. However his faces do feel a bit similar in places and the number of shots of people in spacesuits mean it can be difficult to tell who is who. However overall this is a fantastic slice of adult sci-fi and well worth picking up if you fancy a dose of gory space action, which maintains an element of originality thanks to the involvement of the witches.