Bitter Melon Day, also known as February 14, is fast approaching. It’s twice the trouble this year – because it’s on a Saturday, you can no longer blame school or work for your crippling lack of somebody to hold. Some people love to spend it the old-fashioned way by shutting off their phones and drinking vodka floats, and others by unfollowing all their partnered friends in Facebook while listening to Adele. But a day without comics is a day wasted, just like your efforts at asking out your classmate (or coworker, as the hopeless case may be) on a date.
So here are ten horror comics to read in between crying sessions in the shower.
1. Bad Blood by Jonathan Maberry and Tyler Crook
Feeling sickly and alone? Does your best friend have a date, while you don’t? Bad Blood might be for you. It begins with cancer patient Trick Croft’s best friend dying from a vampire attack. Trick starts hunting down the vampires responsible and meets vampire enthusiast Lolly who joins him in his oddball journey for revenge. Spoiler: the two don’t end up together. Thankfully.
Maberry’s story has enough meat in it for more stories in the future, but so far Dark Horse has been mum about it, leading one to believe that the ending is final. Just like your ex’s goodbye.
2. Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson
On the request of his friend, FBI agent Eliot Carroll, Nicholas Finch travels to Buckaroo, Oregon, the infamous birthplace of sixteen serial killers. But Carroll disappears hours after disclosing to Finch that he is about to uncover the reason that the town has a high murderer turnover. Finch is joined by Sherriff Crane, who once dated the 16th and latest Buckaroo butcher, the Nailbiter, back when the latter was still sane.
Williamson deftly plays with serial killer tropes and makes a killing with his cliffhangers. If you’ve ever wondered why some exes go unhinged, look no further than this tightly-paced ongoing series from Image. It’s a fast read, but nowhere near as fast as you were replaced.
3. The Witcher: House of Glass by Paul Tobin and Joe Querio
Geralt, a witcher who hunts things that go bump at night, teams up with a fisherman whose dead wife, turned into a bruxa by another, has been haunting him for seven whole years. Lost in a dark forest crawling with grave hags and leshens, they are forced to retreat to an eerie house whose stained glass windows tell a story about jealousy that goes beyond death.
This moody miniseries serves as an introduction to the world penned by Andrzej Sapkowski and brought to hack-and-slash life by Projekt RED. But Querio and Tobin are able to push past the limitations of game adaptations by grounding the story in, respectively, atmosphere and emotion, such as when the fisherman talks about the dead wife who haunts him: “Maybe it’s love. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe one day she’ll tear me to pieces. Mostly we stay apart, watching each other.”
4. Tales of Error by Thomas Ott
Tales of Error isn’t as relatable as, say, unrequited feelings. Tales of Error revels in its quiet, otherworldly strangeness, almost similar to the deafening silence after sleeping with your ex. There are no lines of dialogue, and the only narration occurs in the first offering in this anthology. Ott’s early stories, scritch-scratched in strong contrasts of light and dark, are signposts to the marvel of his later work. But this collection over others is more preoccupied with the horrors of love, as with the story about a love condemned by family and friends, the story about a woman who finds love after a successful plastic surgery, and the last one, a vignette showing ten ways to kill your husband. That one’s very inspirational. For maximum enjoyment, mail this to your ex’s fiancée.
5. Hellboy: The Crooked Man by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben
Hellboy travels to Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, a place infested by witches. His companion for the time being is Tom Ferrell, who, in his childhood, took up with a witch named Effie Kolb. Tom now returns to his hometown to atone and discovers the price for abandoning his loved ones.
Any story penned by Mignola and drawn by Corben is a veritable treat, but the duo outdo themselves in this criminally short tale. Mignola gives Corben space to draw his signature critters, and in return Corben draws the hair-raising Mr. Witkins, one of the visually scarier villains in the Mignolaverse. The end result is a corpse-punching, shovel-wielding yarn about bearing your own cross and resisting temptation, a lesson some ex-lovers sorely need. I’m not talking about you, Matthew. Nooope.
6. The Enigma of Amigara Fault by Junji Ito
A great earthquake in Japan exposes a fault line with strange, naturally-formed human-shaped holes in it. Soon, people flock to the fault, eager to solve its mystery. The protagonist Owaki meets Yoshida on the way to the campgrounds near the fault, and the two hit it off pretty well. They spend the night with each other, but things get weird the morning after. Like, really weird. I don’t know, should I call him? Why hasn’t he called me yet!?
While Junji Ito is known for the ridiculousness of both Uzumaki and Gyo, one of his better works is arguably this brief but punchy cautionary tale of believing in destiny. It is a marriage of his signature senseless grotesquery and uncharacteristic restraint – resembling the will-they-won’t-they stalemate you have with your crush.
7. Out of Skin by Emily Carroll
A woman encounters all the women her lover has met. She then proceeds to bury them. (I admire the way you think, lady!) Soon, however, the ghosts of the women haunt her at night.
This webcomic is a doozy. Emily Carroll is an expert storyteller, and the fact that she’s just about eleven levels of spot-on with her text and her art, is cherry on top of the scary sundae. She tries a hand at body horror, and it works. If only the latter could be said for your love life.
8. Black Hole by Charles Burns
Keith wants to be with Chris. Chris wants to be with Rob. Nobody wants to be with you. But that’s all right, because in Black Hole, a different kind of sexually-transmitted disease is going around. The sufferers undergo bizarre mutations, such as face tentacles, molting skin, and secondary mouths, and of course, broken hearts. The last one’s not a mutation. That’s just the mess she left.
While the coming-of-age elements overshadow the body horror, Black Hole carries a hefty amount of apathy, disillusionment, and paranoia that makes it a perfect companion for Valentine’s. For all the unfortunate implications that venereal disease as a subject of humor entails, there is a certain degree of delicious, wicked glee in imagining that the person who cheated on you will develop an anus on their unibrow.
9. Sandman: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman and various artists
Dream learns that four of his creations have left his realm, one of which, the nightmare Corinthian, is preying on the unwary living. Meanwhile, a plan to kill him, orchestrated by his siblings Desire and Despair, is about to bear fruit when a dream vortex blossoms inside a clueless mortal.
Serial killers abound in this story from early Sandman, back when the series was still deeply entrenched in its horror roots. Fair warning: Sandman stories are dense creations of modern myth making. As such, they require time, patience, understanding, loyalty, chocolates, and an “I love you” every now and then. Is that too much to ask?
10. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
After a home invasion, the Locke family relocate to their deceased father’s sprawling mansion called Keyhouse. But there is more to the mansion than meets the keyhole. Hidden inside are magical keys that can accomplish a variety of things. For example, the Timeshift Key will let you see the past (e.g. the happy times before they cheated on you) while the Head Key can help you forget memories or feelings (e.g. the happiness before they cheated on you). Soon, a vengeful demonic entity, tied to their father’s past, runs amok, and it’s up to the Locke children to fight it.
Blood pools Locke & Key’s body count, which is perfect for the all the hysterical redness of Valentine’s Day. The horror is effective because Hill makes you care about the Locke family, and Rodriguez masterfully expresses all the damage they go through. (One heartbreaking issue had the mother attempt to bring back her dead husband using one of the keys.) Locke & Key ended almost a year ago, so other horror comics no longer have fierce competition, but it still casts a long shadow over all the rest. Just like you, Matthew. Call me.