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Top 10 Horror Comics 2021 Main

James' Top 10 Horror Comics of 2021

Written by James Ferguson

Another year comes to a close and while we're still grappling with some real world horrors with the pandemic, there have been quite a few terrifying stories shared in comics as well. This year saw aspects of the pandemic enter funny books, either through metaphors or feelings of isolation. That certainly heightened the scares in some titles.

This is a bittersweet list, as it may be my last. You may have noticed that I haven't reviewed much of anything for about six months. That's for good reason, as I've been making some comics of my own. My first, a short called “Going Viral”, will appear in Nightmare Theater 2, an anthology that was recently funded on Kickstarter. I've got two other anthology shorts that will be appearing in upcoming collections early next year and some other projects in the works right now. That's taken me away from Horror DNA, but the scares and people here will always be close to my cold, dead heart. I can't thank Steve and Dan enough for the opportunity to write here for over ten years, not only building some robust comics coverage, but creating a solid foundation of knowledge for me to make comics of my own. 

So, here's my ranking of the top 10 horror comics of 2021. As with every year, I'll remind you that try as I might, I don't get to read every single comic that comes out. At the time of this writing, I've read over 2,500 comics and graphic novels this year though, so I have a pretty good idea of what's out there. Here we go!

small-coverBuy from Amazon 10 – The Autumnal (Vault Comics)
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artist: Chris Shehan
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell

Small town horror came in strong this year with a number of titles, but none hit quite like The Autumnal. This series, following Kat Somerville as she returns to her home town to bury her estranged mother, wrapped up this year with a bang. The story has a number of twists and turns, showcasing the terrifying secrets a tiny town can hold and the dire ramifications they can have.

The creators built up local folklore for The Autumnal, weaving it into the story and the town's history in an organic way. Kat digs into this piece by piece, uncovering her own memories and leading us down a frightening path. The scares are amplified by the imminent danger Kat's daughter, Sybil finds herself in. While she may find herself and connect some dots, Kat may lose everything in the process.

There are some great visual effects throughout The Autumnal too. Artist Chris Shehan makes leaves scary. Think about that for a second. Fall is a beautiful time of the year and now I'm going to associate all the leaves on the ground with the terror of this comic. Colorist Jason Wordie adds an edge to those bright yellows, oranges, and reds that define the season too.

Reviews: The Autumnal #4 | The Autumnal #6

small-coverBuy from Amazon 9 – Maw (BOOM! Studios)
Writer: Jude Ellison S. Doyle
Artist: A.L. Kaplan
Colorist: Fabiana Mascolo w/ assistance from Federica Mascolo
Letterer: Cardinal Rae

Imagine your trauma manifesting as a physical monster. That's the undercurrent within Maw, a powerful series that mixes real-world horror with the supernatural. The series follows Marion as she heads out to a feminist retreat with her sister, Wendy, looking to get away for a bit after her name was dragged through the mud. She was the victim, yet the trial against her attackers tried to paint her as a predator.

From the moment they get to this secluded beach, something feels off. It seems peaceful enough, but there's something sinister lurking just beneath the surface. The kicker is that we have to wonder if this is really an evil entity or if the actions that follow are justified. After all, Marion did nothing wrong and she didn't deserve what she went through, but the heinous men that attacked her most definitely deserve what's coming to them.

Maw is a haunting tale that's so incredibly relevant right now with everything going on in the courts and women's rights.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 8 – The Silver Coin (Image Comics)
Writer: Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, Jeff Lemire, Michael Walsh, Joshua Williamson, Ram V
Artist: Michael Walsh

My favorite anthologies are those that have some kind of connecting tissue linking all the stories. The Silver Coin does this by showing the terrors that follow a very special coin around the world. Michael Walsh illustrates each issue, with a different writer penning the tale. Each one stands on its own as a powerful and frightening story, yet the coin pops up throughout like a harbinger of doom.

What's truly impressive is the sheer variety at work in The Silver Coin. We go way into the past and deep into the future, looking at anyone and everyone that could have touched this thing. It doesn't seem like anything is off limits and the possibilities are endless. An early favorite is issue #2 that gives a unique spin to the classic slasher movie. Now that this is an ongoing series, I can't wait to see where Walsh takes it next.

Reviews: The Silver Coin #1 | The Silver Coin #2

small-coverBuy from Amazon 7 – Stray Dogs (Image Comics)
Writer: Tony Fleecs
Artist: Trish Forstner
Colorist: Brad Simpson

Horror can take on many forms. It's a very versatile genre, capable of bleeding into other areas, including sci-fi, westerns, and comedy. Stray Dogs scratches a different itch, with the look and feel of a classic Disney animated film but with the tension and terror of the best thrillers. The comic centers on a young, forgetful dog who's settling into her new home. The other dogs all seem happy enough, but there's something odd about her new owner. That's when she figures out that this guy killed her old owner and she wasn't the only victim.

Every single issue of Stray Dogs ends in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. This is a real nail-biter of a comic that was almost painful to read on a month-to-month basis, as it was tough to wait that long between issues. You're spoiled now to get to read it all in one shot. While the animals look like they're taken right from something like Oliver & Company, Stray Dogs is a deeply terrifying read that's well worth your time.

Reviews: Stray Dogs #1 | Stray Dogs #2

small-coverBuy from Amazon 6 – The Darkhold: Iron Man (Marvel Comics)
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Guillermo Sanna
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Super hero comics are one small push away from being total horror shows and nothing encapsulates that like The Darkhold: Iron Man. This one-shot is part of a small event from Marvel Comics that sees a group of heroes read from a twisted book from the elder god Chthon. It gives us a look at an unsettling alternate origin story for the Iron Avenger.

After Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark across multiple movies, you're probably pretty familiar with how the character donned a suit of armor and started fighting bad guys. In this case, something goes horribly wrong and Tony gets stuck in the suit. He becomes obsessed with mixing man and machine, with his humanity (not to mention his flesh and blood) slowly rotting away. There's some chilling scenes showing his skin literally melting and oozing out of the cracks within the armor that will make me never look at Iron Man the same way again.

The Darkhold: Iron Man is a perfect example of how great horror can not only exist in the same universe as Captain America and Thor, but how it can affect even those shining heroes.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 5 – I Breathed a Body (AfterShock Comics)
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

As our obsession with technology and fame continues to grow, I Breathed a Body paints a frightening picture as to what could happen should we keep going down this path. That's the real scary part of this book. It's how close to reality it seems. You can see how these things could happen, with people literally plugging into a social network mixing flesh with technology.

This is some of the best body horror I saw all year and that's just part of the scares the comic has in store for you. It hits on multiple levels, putting characters on the edge of a cliff with no looking back. Once they head down this road, the genie is out of the bottle and the world is changed. At the very least, I Breathed a Body will have you taking a break from social media.

Reviews: I Breathed a Body #1 | I Breathed a Body #2 | I Breathed a Body #3 | I Breathed a Body #4

small-coverBuy from Amazon 4 – Eat the Rich (BOOM! Studios)
Writer: Sarah Gailey
Artist: Pius Bak
Colorist: Roman Titov
Letterer: Cardinal Rae

Joey is excited to meet her boyfriend Astor's family in Crestfall Bluffs, but she's a little scared she won't fit in. They're super rich and might as well live on a different planet. This place is absolutely gorgeous and Joey feels a bit uncomfortable. That feeling is exasperated when she sees what they do to the help. I'm not going to spoil the amazing reveal at the end of Eat the Rich #1, but suffice it to say, it will most definitely hook you.

Eat the Rich is a fascinating examination of the ultra-wealthy and how “normal” people must seem to them. It's like they're not even human. Instead, they're merely tools to prolong the lives of the rich. This is a sickening yet enthralling read that will keep you guessing to the very end.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 3 – The Crossroads at Midnight (Iron Circus Comics)
Writer / Artist: Abby Howard

The mark of a good horror story is its stakes. It can't be scary if there's not something on the line. The stories in The Crossroads at Midnight not only deliver on those stakes, but push the boundaries way past any comfort level. What's amazing is how creator Abby Howard grounds these tales in reality. These are everyday, normal people that suddenly find themselves in horrifying situations. Howard makes it seem like any of these terrors could happen to us too, upping the ante considerably.

Some of these stories feel like watching a train wreck and I mean that in the best possible way. You can see where they're going and you hope that you're wrong, but you can't look away. You have to see it through. The Crossroads at Midnight is an anthology you might want to read in small doses, as the scares can be rather overwhelming. I couldn't read it all in one sitting. Instead, I had to spread the scares over time.

Review: The Crossroads at Midnight

small-coverBuy from Amazon 2 – The Nice House on the Lake (DC Comics)
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Andworld Design

James Tynion IV is no stranger to great horror or my “Best Horror Comics of the Year” lists. He took the top two spots in 2020 with Something is Killing the Children and The Department of Truth. The Nice House on the Lake is a welcome and worthy addition, delivering something truly unique and horrifying.

The story is best experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible, however, I can say that you can see the influence of the pandemic on the comic. The feeling of isolation permeates through every page, not to mention the hope that the horrors of the real world aren't actually happening. It's an unsettling mix of hope and fear. Each chapter begins with a look to the future, showing fire and destruction and making you wonder how we can possibly get to that point.

Alvaro Martinez Bueno's designs showcase real people and you can understand their personalities based on how they look and act. What really stands out is how the central figure in The Nice House on the Lake is depicted. It's a great visual, personifying the very idea of your eyes playing tricks on you.

small-coverBuy from Amazon 1 – The Me You Love in the Dark (Image Comics)
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: Nate Piekos

As mentioned above, horror is a pretty flexible genre and plays well with others. The Me You Love in the Dark is a perfect example of that, mixing with romance. I know what you might be thinking. A horror / romance comic? Really? I assure you, The Me You Love in the Dark is the scariest comic I read all year.

This haunting tale centers on Ro, an artist looking to get away from the hustle and bustle in the big city and concentrate on her work in the quiet of the countryside. She takes up residence in a quaint home that turns out to be haunted. The ghost lurking within these walls takes a liking to Ro and the two strike up what passes for a relationship. They spend all day and night together, although Ro doesn't seem to see the creature for what it really is.

Jorge Corona gives us glimpses of the true nature of this entity and each time gets scarier than the last. This thing seems ready and capable of eating Ro alive, yet this poor woman doesn't seem to see it at first. She gets deeper and deeper into its clutches until all is revealed in an amazing final encounter.

The Me You Love in the Dark explores the terrors of love and how it can blind us. It's one thing to forgive your significant other for leaving a cabinet open or a wet towel on the floor. It's quite another to ignore the bloodshed and dead bodies they pile up. You can definitely do better.

So that's 2021's top horror comics. Did your favorite funny book make the list? Let me know on our socials!

 

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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