by Andy Wolverton
Anthologies are almost always a mixed bag, usually consisting of some good stories, lots of average ones, and a few clunkers. I’m happy to report that In the Dark: A Horror Anthology is that oddity of oddities: an anthology packed with 24 stories, the weakest of which are pretty darn good and the best of which are stunning.
In the Dark was a Kickstarter project organized by Rachel Deering, who wrote two of the collection’s stories and did most of the book’s lettering. Deering’s list of writers and artists reads like a who’s who in comics: Cullen Bunn, Justin Jordan, Steve Niles, Tim Seeley, Scott Snyder, Nate Powell, Tyler Jenkins, just to name a few from the first half of the book.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of In the Dark is in the way Deering has assembled stories that pay homage to the horror classics of the 1950s while forging ahead with tales that expand the genre. The collection’s opening story, “Murder Farm,” has the look and feel of an old EC comic. Not only does it contain moments of Jack Davis-style art by Drew Moss, it also contains some off-center coloring and even displays a coffee-stain ring. The story itself (by Cullen Bunn) is a familiar one of a kid daring a group of other kids to enter an old abandoned barn. “Not All There” is another old-school EC-like story (written by Duane Swierczynski, art by Richard P. Clark) about the strange things that happen to a man after he loses his arm in an accident.
Yet there’s plenty of new surprises, sometimes appearing in old packages. “The Lost Valley of the Dead” (Brian Keene and Tadd Galusha) starts off as a pulp-inspired “Zombies in the Old West” story, but goes in some unexpected directions that are fresh, exciting, and just plain fun. Tom Taylor and Mack Chater’s “In Plain Sight” is a nifty noir piece with an ending you probably won’t see coming, and it packs a solid punch.
Other stories push the boundaries for horror fans who might think they’ve seen it all. Matching Nate Powell’s art with a story by Scott Snyder in “The One That Got Away” might seem like something of a head-scratcher, but the tone of the story shifts masterfully from a carefree child’s tale to something genuinely creepy. “The Girl on the Corner,” by Paul Tobin and Robert Wilson IV, gives a new twist to the historic ghost story, one that you’ll remember for a long time. In “Final Meal,” Christopher Sebela and Zack Soto deliver one of the most original, disturbing stories in the entire anthology, which also features a masterful use of color.
The stories are all interspersed with fake advertisements that have the look and feel of the types of ads that appeared in horror comics and magazines from days gone by. Many of these stories are so good, you’ll want them (or at least their characters) to go on. In fact, I’m hoping that a couple of them may even be developed into ongoing series.
In the Dark opens with an introduction by Scott Snyder and closes with a wonderful history of horror comics by Mike Howlett called “Howlett’s Hysterical Horror Comic History: An Opinionated Essay.” Howlett’s excellent essay — which includes many covers from classic horror comics and magazines — touches on all the important aspects of the genre and will leave you wanting to read more. Also included is a 20-page pin-up gallery of new art from several of the contributing artists.
Stories of the Old West, paranormal stories, zombie stories, noir stories, urban legends, werewolves, science fiction… In the Dark has something for everyone, regardless of your particular tastes in horror comics. If you’re even a casual fan of the genre, you will not want to miss this one.
Get your copy of In the Dark, as well as other horror works by some of its contributors: