Dark Horse Book of Hauntings

Edited by Scott Allie
96 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

A friend recently commented to me that 2003 seemed like it was the year of the anthology; the number of really strong anthologies released this year was almost overwhelming. The more I think about it, the more I tend to believe it; it’s almost impossible to even try and list how many have been released so far, and we still have three months to go! One of the latest anthologies to hit shelves is The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, a book which shows above all else why those ignoring Dark Horse’s new horror line really are missing out on some of the best books being published by the company.

Published in an attractive 6×9″ hardcover format, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings has nine short pieces to lure you into its pages. Probably the highest profile entry here is a Hellboy story by Mike Mignola, the only one by him this entire year. In many ways it sets the standard for the rest of the book, with a slightly different take on the idea of a haunted house. After a draught of new Mignola Hellboy stories, this is a real pleasure to read, with Mignola’s trademark iconic art and sense of what makes things creepy. The other real high point of the book is “Stray” by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, as they take haunted houses to a much smaller scale. Dorkin’s script is both funny and touching simultaneously, and Thompson’s painted art is gorgeous. Thompson’s painted Scary Godmother albums have shown before that she can handle creepy, and this is no exception; the scene of the spirit rising from the grave alone is worth the price of admission.

That’s not to say that other stories in the book don’t work, mind you. Scott Allie, Paul Lee, and Brian Horton’s The Devil’s Footprints story “This Small Favor” is a lighter-hearted piece than the original mini-series, but still a good introduction to Allie’s creation as well as a good stand-alone story that has fun with poltergeists and what happens when you try to kick them out. Likewise, Milton Freewater Jr. and Lucas Marangon’s “The House on the Corner” employs a lighter tone when talking about spirits lingering in a house sitting in a “transitional” neighborhood. With a lot of controversy in urban areas already stirred up over people going into rundown parts of town and changing the identity of the area one house at a time, it’s a perfect counterpoint to the idea that sometimes the old identity of a neighborhood doesn’t want to leave. Uli Oesterle’s “Forever” is a real charmer as well, with a wonderful art style to depict a tattoo gone horribly out of control, to the point that readers will probably find themselves absent-mindedly scratching their own skin as they read its tale.

Only a couple of the stories veer into predictability. Mike Richardson and P. Craig Russell’s “Gone” would have been better if Richardson didn’t make the mistake of repeating the same sequence of events one time too many. Russell’s art makes the most of the story, evoking a tension even where the story threatens to wear it down. The final page of art by Russell and colorist Lovern Kindzierski alone is ultimately worth the price of admission, bringing real terror in what could have otherwise been cliché. Likewise, Randy Stradley and Paul Chadwick’s “Lies, Death, and Olefactory Delusions” is a pretty standard story that shines mostly because it’s so nice to see new art by Chadwick. The story itself is pretty slight, but Chadwick makes the most of it, especially in the initial “gotcha” scene where Chadwick’s imagination makes the surprise lurking around the corner look interesting enough that it keeps your attention for the rest of the story.

The final two entries were a little surprising only because they weren’t comics. Perceval Landon’s “Thurnley Abbey” Victorian-era ghost story is accompanied with spot illustrations by Gary Gianni, and is ironically one of the creepiest stories in the book. While I suspect a lot of readers may initially skip over it (aside from admiring Gianni’s illustrations, which really are a perfect match in terms of style), it’s very much worth going back and reading it for a really worthy addition to The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings. I wish the same was true with the interview with L.L. Dreller, a professional séance medium. It’s a nice idea, and it’s pretty informative about séances, but at ten pages I found myself wishing for a shorter interview and one more story in its place.

Overall, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings definitely gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Even the weaker stories have some great art to recommend them, and I think that if you like horror anthologies it’s definitely worth sitting on your shelf. With an attractive Gianni cover and nice production values that bring to mind books like Dark Horse’s Murder Mysteries, you’ll ultimately be glad you brought it into your own haunted house.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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