We’ve got a bit of a horror special for our latest round-up of the best digital indie comics featuring: Brit vampire house sharing in Adam Cadwell’s Blood Blokes; twisted horror anthology Tragic Tales of Horrere from Madius Comics; gritty action with a truly terrifying villain in TPub Comics’ Tortured Life; and psychological horror in Red Shift Press’ Whispering Sands.
Blood Blokes #1-5 (Great Beast Comics)
Do we really need another vampire comic?! Well fortunately Adam Cadwell’s Blood Blokes manages to inject a bit of fresh blood into the genre’s lifeless corpse by turning it into a flat share comedy full of dry British humour – in other words it’s a bit like Vampires Behaving Badly or the [Not So] Young Ones! Vince is having a pretty rubbish new year in 2000 as he is fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend before being bitten by a sinister vampire bat creature in a back alley. When he wakes up he has been rescued by a group of fellow bloodsuckers, but instead of our story becoming a dark and brooding look at what it is to be an immortal in the modern world, the book instead puts on emphasis on the little things like lost love and who’s turn it is to go shopping/hunting for blood. There’s still the odd bit of gore and a few scares as Vince gets used to his new powers and the subsequent cravings, but Cadwell’s group of misfit characters are very identifiable and grounded and the whole feel thing is more like a student flat share than a group of undead immortals – especially the brilliant Douglas, the vampire elder, who is delightfully creepy both vampirically, but also as an old bloke hanging around with youngsters! This every man charm makes it feel more like a story about a group of people who happen to be vampires, rather than a story about actual vampires, and if you’ve seen the excellent What We Do In The Shadows, then it’s very similar in tone, but actually pre-dates it thanks to the length of time between issues. With a Jamie McKelvie/Phonogram style feel to the visuals (albeit a bit more cartoony) Cadwell has managed to find a really fresh sense of originality for his vamps, and so rather than it being another Twilight or True Blood wannabe Blood Blokes becomes that rare thing, a vampire book that doesn’t suck!
Purchase Blood Blokes #1-5 for £3.99 from BigCartel
Tragic Tales of Horrere #1 (Madius comics)
Madius Comics’ new horror anthology Tragic Tales of Horrere is wonderfully eclectic but also builds in quality and intensity before reaching a truly harrowing conclusion in the final chapter. With 4 stories from the twisted minds of writers Rob Jones and Michael Sambrook, Tragic Tales of Horrere starts with a classic EC Comics themed cover before taking a brief trip to the wilderness of northern USA with a haunting, twist-filled yeti story ‘If You Go Down To The Woods Today’. Next up is a slice of digitally rendered Lovecraftian gothic horror with exquisite full page artwork from Alastair McLauchlan, before John Slighthome dishes up a disgusting slice of sci-fi body horror in You Are What You Eat. Mixing Geof Darrow-esque detail with a Soylent Green meets the Dawn of the Dead-style plot, it has the kind of edgy slickness that would feel right at home in 2000 AD or Judge Dredd. The final tale, Grimoire: Baby Bell Jar, is perhaps the darkest of the lot, with a disturbing circus-themed whodunnit plot. With scratchy artwork from Alisdair Wood, the whole thing has a very gritty and grimy feel to it, which makes the darker elements feel even more unpleasant and unsettling. As it builds to a truly shocking conclusion, Grimoire works as a blood-soaked exclamation point for a really fantastic collection of stories that are put together to a high standard that belies their indie roots. The phrase ‘indie horror anthology’ can often evoke certain expectations, with blood and guts taking the place of quality art and story-telling, but the Madius team manage to exceed those expectations and create a truly top quality collection of horrific tales.
Purchase The Tragic Tales of Horrere #1 for £4 from their Big Cartel store
Tortured Life #1 (TPub Comics)
For their latest release, Neil Gibson and Dan Watters introduce us to one of the great new horror comic villains – The Bloody Man. Tortured Life starts off in the world of average bloke Richard, with his average job and a lovely, but average, girlfriend, however when he sees a cat die on the road before it actually happens he begins to realize he can see foresee people’s deaths. This drives him into a mental breakdown and agoraphobic nightmare before he encounters Alice, his guardian angel, who appears to be immune to his psychic predictions. However her arrival also brings with it the arrival of the sociopathic Bloody Man, whose take-no-prisoners, don’t-give-a-shit attitude makes him into a mix of Hellraiser‘s Pinhead combined with the Terminator, but looking like a gory version of the Red Skull, as he stops at nothing to return Richard to his sinister bosses. As the story develops it twists and turns in directions that you don’t expect from the first chapter and the scale of the final act is certainly much grander than you expect when the story starts. TPub regular Caspar Wjingaard produces some of his best work yet, with a fantastic balance of the mundane every day life of Richard that contrasts brilliantly with with bloody and gruesome world of the Bloody Man. While some of the stories in TPub’s Twisted Dark anthology rely on the imagination to shock you, Watters and Wijingaard aren’t afraid to go for full scale blood and guts in Tortured Life and produce some pages that are truly horrifying and reminscent of the best, and darkest, moments of the world of Clive Barker. As a complete story, this may well be the best TPub book yet.
Purchase The Tortured Life for £14.99 from the TPub Comics Facebook page
Whispering Sands (Red Shift Press)
Horror doesn’t have to be all about blood and guts as proved by Chris Sides and Freja Steeles’s unsettling supernatural tale about a father and son in Thailand during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Chen is a sailor who sees the spirits of dead people in the sand just before the giant tsunami waves destroys Northern Phuket. As he attempts to deal with the aftermath of the wave, Chen looks to find answers about how and what these visions were all about, as well as dealing with his own tragedy amongst the chaos of that major disaster. It’s an intriguing take on an emotionally powerful subject matter and one that manages to avoid slipping into mawkish sentimentality or inappropriate sensationalism thanks to a smartly written script from Sides. Although the tsunami is an important part of the story, it’s not the main focus and so the action is given enough of distance from those events to stop it from exploiting such a terrible incident. The premonition of death and the faces in the sand give the whole book a haunting quality that will stay with you once you have finished reading and the relationship between Chen, his son and his ex-wife is very believable and gives the book an emotional depth for the story to work around. Unfortunately the artwork from Freja Steele is not the most accomplished with a hard edged computer graphic led style, and some slightly erratic rendering of faces and figures. However this cold and clinical approach does help to make the whole thing feel very real and grounded, and the ghostly visions are very creepy in contrast – which might have been very different and less successful in the hands of another artist.
Purchase Whispering Sands for £4.00 from Comicsy