Review: Tharg's Creepy ChroniclesA comic review article by: Zack Davisson
Horror comes in different flavors -- tense, psychological drama, gore fests, classic monsters and ghost stories. No matter what your fright favorite is, you'll find something to love in 2000 AD's latest horror anthology Tharg's Creepy Chronicles.
2000 AD is best known for the dark future sci-fi like super cop Judge Dredd or bounty hunter Strontium Dog, but they also deliver top-notch horror as well. They keep that EC tradition alive, tending towards gruesome comedy finishing on sharp one-liners, mixed with some brilliant modern ghost stories and some true Lovecraftian weirdness.
For the uninitiated to The Galaxy's Greatest Comic, Tharg is the intergalactic editor of 2000 AD's long-running, eponymous UK magazine. As with the previous (and awesome) release Tharg's Terror Tales, Tharg plays the role of old EC horror host. He gives a snarky intro, then sits back and lets the story speak for itself. There's ten stories in total, the longest, Storming Heaven, at 50 pages and the shortest ones only five pages.
The stand-out of the collection is Silo by Mark Millar and Dave D'Antiquis. An old story from 1980, this is simply the best Mark Millar story I have ever read. It was so good, in fact, that I did a double-take when I saw the author. A tight, claustrophobic story it involves two men locked in to a 24-hour shift in a Cold War missile silo, deep under the earth. They man the keys and launch codes to a nuclear missile, and all goes when until the ghost of a man unjustly killed and buried in the same spot comes calling looking for revenge on humanity. Seriously, this story is brilliant, with a palatable fear and tension running through the whole thing. D'Anqtiquis' art is perfect, a black-and-white, thick lined work that builds on and heightens Millar's script. This is comic book horror short stories done right.
The disappointment is Storming Heaven, by Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving. Or maybe I shouldn't say disappointment, as it too is a great story. But it is out of place. The tale of hippy superheroes with LSD-fueled powers is beautifully written and drawn -- both Rennie and Irving are creators whose work I enjoy. But there is nothing “creepy” about it. Odd, sure. Psychedelic, definitely. But it breaks the mood established by Silo and just doesn't seem to fit. And it is the longest story in the collection.
The rest are short five-to-eight-page little snippets that run the scale. Reapermen and A Little Knowledge were great reads, but too short. I couldn't believe when I flipped the last page and that was all I got. They are just little intros to what could be full comics, and I wish they kept going. Unsatisfying at that length.
Pea Patch Podlings -- a riff on possessed Cabbage Patch Dolls -- and Scene of the Crime -- with a nod to The King in Yellow -- and Counts as One Choice on the other hand told complete stories in their limited pages. Both of these were great tongue-in-cheek horror tales that would have made great episodes of The Twilight Zone. I loved all three of these. Shok is not as good, but is the only story that relates directly to Judge Dredd, so props for that. Revelations is a decent little Satan story with a predictable twist.
2000 AD is hitting Halloween hard this month with the Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf and this latest horror anthology. Like every anthology, not every story will be for everyone. For me, Silo alone was worth the price of entry. I re-read that a couple of times before moving on to the next stories.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.