Superheroes Become Monsters In This Week’s Best Comics

The line between superheroes and horror can be pretty thin. A spaceship crashing into a wheat field could carry a man of tomorrow, or a vicious eldritch horror. A boy who watches his parents die could become a caped crusader or a homicidal maniac. So, taking some of the EC spirit, DC celebrates Halloween with the one-shot DC’s House Of Horror, masterminded by Keith Giffen.

DC’s tongue is firmly in cheek, here, of course, with stories that have a decided tilt towards the lurid and the cheesy. Still, some are wrenching. Edward Lee and Howard Porter turn the Superman story into an unnerving tale of a vicious alien with a simple change to his origin. Weston Osche and Howard Chaykin point out that technically Billy Batson is possessed. Amid it all, these stories, all of which are lightning quick at just a handful of pages, offer a clever skew to superhero stories, from how an Amazon would truly perceive Man’s World to how the Justice League would, or wouldn’t, handle zombies. It’s perfect for a chilly Halloween night.

The Damned #5, Oni Press

Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurt wrap up their noir about demons openly running the underworld with a classic ending. Everybody cuts a deal, and nobody gets what they want, whether you’re in a horror movie or a crime story, but at least Eddie walks out the door with his skin intact. Supposedly, as the book hints at the very end. That might change, but what hasn’t is that Bunn’s expanded a concept into an entire world that lives and breathes on its own.

Jughead: The Terror #1, Archie Comics

Jughead Jones, that burger-loving teen, turns out to be a werewolf in this follow-up to the horrific one-shot from Frank Tieri and the art team of Pat and Tim Kennedy. Jug is on the run from Betty, the werewolf hunter, but somebody knows his secret, and they’re letting him out at night. And that’s not his only problem, as Reggie, mauled to death in the one-shot, makes it out alive. And we all know what that means. Tieri manages to balance the formula of the werewolf story, and the inherent absurdity of Jughead as a hairy flesh-eating monster, with the Kennedys using the right amount of gore.

Bloodshot: Salvation #2, Valiant

Jeff Lemire and Lewis LaRosa ask a fairly simple, but scary question: What happens when a superhero whose superpowers are literally in his blood becomes a father? Ray, whose nanites turn him into Bloodshot, finds himself asking this question as he deals with his wife’s past and his family’s present. The whole thing feels a bit more like a ’70s exploitation flick than a superhero book, but it’s a pleasant feeling, and Lemire’s careful theme of family and its discontents stands out.

Rebels: These Free And Independent States #8, Dark Horse

Brian Wood and Joan Urgell wrap up their second miniseries with a little mythmaking for Ethan Allen. It contrasts a handful of Green Mountain Boys fighting to defend the remains of a Quebec “expeditionary force.” Wood leaves out a lot here, to be blunt; Allen was a more complicated figure, something that’s only hinted at here. But it illustrates an uncomfortable reality of the American Revolution; not everybody was fully on board, and money decided more than we’d care to admit.

Thor: Where Walk The Frost Giants, Marvel: Ralph Macchio (the editor, not the Karate Kid) and Todd Nauck deliver an old-school Thor story about the Odinson, his trio of true companions, and a bunch of very angry frost giants.

Underwinter: A Field Of Feathers #1, Image Comics: Ray Fawkes’ surreal, unnerving fantasy/horror book is back and creepier than ever as a family tries to find home and a young woman gets in over her head.

The Ruff N’ Reddy Show #1, DC Comics: Howard Chaykin and Matthew Reynolds rewrite the Hanna-Barbera cartoon as if the classic cartoon were run by real actors, who fall on hard times. Weird? Yes. Funny? Definitely.

Dark Ark #2, Aftershock: A murder mystery on Noah’s Ark except it’s full of monsters, both literal and figurative. What could possibly go wrong? Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe offer some smart twists on just how, beyond the obvious.

The Shadow Vol. 3 #3, Dynamite: Si Spurrier, Daniel Waters, and Daniel HDR get a bit pointed in their story of a pulp hero returning in the modern day. Hey, you can’t expect the Shadow to be a fan of Nazis in any era.

This Week’s Best Collections

Night Force: The Complete Series, DC Comics ($40, Hardcover): Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan teamed up in the early ’80s to create one of the best urban fantasy books of the time, following a bunch of paranormal professors and Van Helsing’s granddaughter though some surprisingly mature horror adventures.

How To Read Nancy: The Elements Of Comics In Three Easy Panels, Fantagraphics ($30, Softcover): Want to learn more about comics? Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden teach you everything you need to know about how the medium works, using just one comic: A three-panel Nancy strip from 1959.

For Better Or For Worse: The Complete Library Vol. 1, IDW Publishing ($40, Hardcover): The newspaper mainstay, and groundbreaking strip that unfolded in real time over the course of years, finally gets a chronological collection.