I’ve finally got round to visiting my local comic shop for the first time this month, which means that I’ve rather belatedly got my hands on DC’s Halloween special Cursed Comics Cavalcade. Last year DC put out a special where a bevy of horror writers re-imagined the company’s heroes as macabre monsters, but Cursed Comics ditches this high concept in favour of more straightforward in-universe fare. Let’s see how it turned out…
The comic opens with two stories that are really artists’ pieces, rather than writers’ pieces. “The Spread” is a Swamp Thing story written by Tim Seeley that serves mainly as a vehicle for Kyle Hotz’s artwork, and Hotz pulls off the requisite body horror with aplomb as plants and flesh blur in and out of each other. In the Batman story “Gorehound” writer Gary Dauberman squeezes a complete slasher movie (including twist ending) into eight pages; Ricardo Federici’s atmospheric artwork is the main selling point, rather than the hyper-compressed plot.
The most straightforward horror story is Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s “Yellow Jack”, which puts the demon Etrigan on a romp through a Gothic nineteenth-century New Orleans, richly drawn by Hardman. A number of the stories are conventional (if brief) superhero tales which happen to have macabre twists – not that macabre twists are particularly unconventional in today’s superhero comics. Kenny Porter and Riley Rossmo’s “Life Sentence” pits Green Lantern Guy Gardner against alien zombies, while Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy’s “Mercy Killing” has Black Lightning and Katana defend a young girl from a Japanese demoness.
The strongest story of this type is Dave Wielgosz and Christian Duce’s “The Devil You Know”, where Robin struggles to solve a mystery in Gotham when the only clues he has to go on are the inarticulate ravings of Solomon Grundy. While it hardly breaks the bat-book mould, it deserves credit for fitting a well-constructed, satisfying super-detective yarn into eight pages. Honourable mention goes to Vita Ayala and Victor Ibanez’s “Siren Song”, which manages to tell two stories at the same time: the art depicts Wonder Woman’s battle against a siren, whose folklore-inspired backstory is told through narrative captions.
The most interesting of the stories in the comic, if not necessarily the most successful, is Magdalene Visaggio and Minkyu Jung’s “Strange Visitor”. Here, we learn that Superman has a problem known only to himself and Lois: at night, when the day’s adventuring is over, he suffers terrible nightmares. The comic’s visualisation of Clark’s sleep disruption is entirely credible, with the Man of Steel being troubled first by sleep paralysis as a shadowy figure looms over him, and then having a night terror which causes him to zap a piece of bedside furniture with his heat vision. The story then segues into standard superhero fare (the nightmares turn out to be the work of a Phantom Zone criminal) and the resolution is rather abrupt, but the central idea remains effective. Michael Moreci and his three-man artistic crew tackle a similar idea with “The Monster in Me”, where the Green Arrow suffers visions representing his self-doubts, but the result is not as strong.
The comic closes on a light-hearted note with “Halloween Hayride” by James Tynion and a three-person art crew, a gentle story where Zatanna uses magic to defend a preteen girl from her bullying elder brothers.
My verdict: a solid collection of ten superhorror tales, where even the weaker entries tend to have something to recommend them. If you’re looking for an appropriately creepy comic to celebrate the pumpkin season, Cursed Comics Cavalcade is a fine choice.