I’ve found myself revisiting a lot of comics lately that blend science-fiction with horror. It’s probably accurate to say that it’s one of my favorite subgenres, and I enjoy it equally in print and in film. The Longbox of Darkness is filled with comics of this type, and since I’ve been rifling through my collection, getting high on technological terror and venturing to places where no one can hear you scream, I’ve decided to share some of what I’ve been reading with you, my fellow travelers in darkness.
Note: This will be a three-part series of posts, so look for more installments in the days ahead. Now let’s grab our pulse rifles, hop in those cryotubes, and prepare to hyper-jump to places where the comfort blanket of science has been replaced with a shroud of surreal terror. Here it is, horror lovers – a list of terrifying sci-fi horror comics I’ve been perusing.
Dark Horse’s ALIENS
In the late 1980s, Dark Horse Comics secured the rights to the Aliens franchise, bringing the terror of xenomorphs into the world of comics. Since then, the Alien saga has been expanded through a wealth of unforgettable narratives. Here are five of the most memorable ones that I’ve been devouring (or in some cases, regurgitating) recently:
1. Aliens: Outbreak: The first venture of Dark Horse into the Alien universe, crafted by Mark Verheiden and Mark A. Nelson, takes place following the events of Aliens (1986). It focuses on characters Hicks and Newt, renamed Wilks and Billie in later versions to align with Alien 3’s continuity. This book sets a strong precedent with its intricate narrative that dovetails seamlessly with the movie franchise’s themes.
2. Aliens: Nightmare Asylum: In this exciting sequel to Outbreak, Verheiden raises the stakes. The story chronicles the attempts of Wilks, Billie, and a damaged Bishop to outwit a renegade general planning to use captured aliens as a personal army. Nightmare Asylum is a cautionary tale about overconfidence when grappling with forces beyond human control.
3. Aliens: Salvation: This standalone graphic novel penned by Mike Mignola, Dave Gibbons, and Kevin Nowlan, narrates the survival story of Selkirk, a devoutly religious space freighter crewman, stranded on an unknown planet with a dangerous alien. The story is beautifully illustrated and highlights the conflict between faith and survival.
4. Aliens: Labyrinth: This series dives deeper into the horrifying nature of the xenomorphs. Authored by Jim Woodring and illustrated by Kilian Plunkett, Labyrinth follows Colonel Doctor Paul Church’s unique understanding of aliens, shaped by his own traumatic experiences. The comic provides an in-depth exploration of the terrifying psychology of the xenomorphs.
5. Aliens: Dead Orbit: A testament to the enduring terror of the Alien franchise, Dead Orbit is perhaps the most visually striking in the series. James Stokoe’s intricately detailed artwork intensifies the horror as the narrative unfolds around a space station engineer struggling to survive amidst an Alien infestation.
These collections reveal the diverse potential of the Aliens franchise. They attest to how gripping characters, atmospheric tension, and ingenious narratives can transport the horror of the cinematic xenomorphs onto the comic book page.
The Horror of the Unfathomable: Grant Morrison’s ‘Nameless’
Few creators are as celebrated for their unconventional storytelling as the brilliant Grant Morrison. A stalwart in the industry, Morrison’s work often transcends traditional comic narratives, incorporating deep philosophical themes and complex storylines that challenge the reader’s perception of reality. Among his many critically-acclaimed pieces, one that stands out, particularly in the science fiction and horror realm, is ‘Nameless.’
Published by Image Comics in 2015, ‘Nameless’ showcases Morrison at his most imaginative and frightening, in collaboration with talented artist Chris Burnham. Together, they craft a chilling narrative that is an uncanny amalgamation of cosmic horror and science fiction. ‘Nameless’ is an audacious narrative that delves into the deepest corners of human fear and existential dread, unveiling a terrifying universe that teeters on the precipice of our comprehension.
‘Nameless’ takes the reader on a gripping journey centered around a protagonist who has renounced his name to escape his haunted past. This unnamed protagonist is an expert in occult matters, turned interstellar mercenary hired by a group of billionaires to protect Earth from an impending catastrophe. A colossal asteroid named Xibalba, after the Mayan underworld, is hurtling toward Earth. However, this asteroid isn’t merely a chunk of space rock but serves as a celestial prison for a cosmic entity of unimaginable malevolence.
The narrative of ‘Nameless’ is intricately layered, designed to engage and disconcert. Morrison employs his distinct storytelling style to construct a narrative labyrinth, requiring active engagement from readers to decipher the deeper meanings hidden beneath the surface. The storyline combines elements of horror, metaphysics, and space exploration, resulting in a narrative tapestry that is as horrifying as it is enthralling.
Complementing Morrison’s eccentric storytelling is Burnham’s artwork, a unique blend of the grotesque and the surreal. His illustrations, enriched by Nathan Fairbairn’s disquieting colors, breathe life into the horrors lurking in the comic’s pages. The haunting visual depictions of alien landscapes, monstrous entities, and scenes of stark terror evoke a sense of disquiet that is both captivating and unsettling, reminiscent of the strange and terrifying tales spun by H.P. Lovecraft.
‘Nameless‘ goes far beyond traditional horror and science fiction tropes to explore themes of existential dread, reality, and identity. The comic series delves into the terror of the unknown and humanity’s insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things. Morrison presents a universe that is indifferent, even hostile, to human existence, echoing the bleak outlook of cosmic horror literature.
Despite its relatively short length, the six-issue series is dense with ideas and themes that linger in readers’ minds long after they’ve finished reading. The narrative pace, the depth of the themes explored, and the complexities of the story structure create a reading experience that is both challenging and rewarding. This is a testament to Morrison’s talent for weaving complex narratives and Burnham’s skillful artistic abilities.
‘Nameless’ is more than a simple horror story set in space. It is an exploration of fear, both physical and existential. It is a story of humanity’s struggle against forces beyond its control and understanding. Above all, it examines the terrifying vastness of the universe and our minuscule place within it.
For lovers of science fiction, horror, and challenging narratives, ‘Nameless’ offers a unique reading experience. It is a comic series that rewards multiple readings as each pass uncovers new layers of meaning, narrative connections, and thematic depths. With its intricate plot, terrifying themes, and stunning artwork, ‘Nameless’ is a significant work.
Horrific Intrigue: Becky Cloonan’s ‘Southern Cross’
Becky Cloonan, known for her multi-faceted talents as a writer and illustrator, broke new ground with her 2015 comic book series, ‘Southern Cross.’ Published by Image Comics, ‘Southern Cross’ is a remarkable foray into the science fiction genre, blending elements of mystery, horror, and suspense.
In collaboration with artist Andy Belanger and colorist Lee Loughridge, Cloonan crafts a compelling narrative that unfolds in the confines of a space tanker. The series offers a profound exploration of themes such as loss, identity, and the unending quest for truth in a universe filled with ambiguities.
The story of ‘Southern Cross’ is centered on Alex Braith, a woman who embarks on a journey to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, to retrieve the remains of her deceased sister, Amber. The voyage is aboard the Southern Cross; a space tanker repurposed for interstellar transport. As the ship sails through the dark expanse of space, Alex becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue, haunted by uncanny visions and gradually uncovering the dark secrets that the ship harbors.
‘Southern Cross’ stands out for its unconventional narrative approach, seamlessly combining a murder mystery with sci-fi elements. Cloonan’s well-paced storytelling builds up the suspense, using the claustrophobic environment of the spaceship to amplify the psychological horror elements. The mystery of Amber’s death unfolds slowly, pulling the reader deeper into the narrative.
Andy Belanger’s artwork complements Cloonan’s storytelling in an extraordinary manner. His work on the series demonstrates an impressive ability to create atmospheric environments that intensify feelings of dread and unease. Belanger’s depictions of the Southern Cross’s desolate interiors and the alien landscapes of outer space lend the comic a haunting aesthetic. Furthermore, Lee Loughridge’s color work is a critical component of the series, with a muted palette that enhances the suspense and overall sense of foreboding.
Another notable aspect of the book is its strong character development. Alex Braith is not a conventional protagonist; she’s rough around the edges and bears the weight of her past, making her character’s journey captivating. As she investigates her sister’s mysterious death, readers witness her evolution, adding depth to the narrative.
‘Southern Cross’ is a testament to Becky Cloonan’s storytelling prowess and her ability to transcend genres. It’s a haunting space odyssey that combines an intriguing mystery with a deep emotional core. The series portrays the vastness of space not just as a physical frontier but also as a metaphor for personal isolation and existential dread.
‘Southern Cross‘ manages to explore the limitless depths of space and the human psyche equally. It’s a chilling journey into the unknown, reminding us that sometimes the most terrifying monsters are the ones we bring with us, locked away in the depths of our souls.
Well, horror lovers, that’s it for today’s list. Check back soon, as PART II will soon be worming its way into your chests like a facehugger’s embryo. Until then, stay weird, and keep it creepy.
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