The 7 Best Dark Graphic Novels of 2017

2017 was a stellar year for horror, sci-fi and fantasy, but the innovation and creativity that 2017 produced didn’t begin and end at the box office. In the world of comic books, artists and writers collaborated to bring us outstanding storytelling. Here are our picks for the best of 2017.

Kill or Be Killed

The latest in a series of top-notch crime dramas from duo Ed Brubacker and Sean Phillips, Kill or Be killed does little to dispel the idea that the pair can do no wrong. Our Lead Dylan appears to have a self-destructive streak and a propensity for violence and vigilantism that seems destined to catch up with him. The thing is, Dylan is only acting out as a way of protecting himself from a malevolent demon that is stalking him, demanding sacrifice as payment for saving him from a suicide attempt.

Never truly knowing whether the demon is real or a figment of his warped imagination, Dylan must struggle to keep his secret life from invading his personal one. At its best, the series offers a deconstruction of the vigilante figure so common to comics in general. In Dylan we find a portrait of a depressed, alienated and troubled youth who we hope can be redeemed, even as he sinks further and further into a murderous lifestyle.

My Favourite Thing is Monsters

Disguised as the journal of a 10-year-old girl, My Favourite Thing is Monsters has a truly unique art style, comprised of dense biro and pencil illustrations on lined paper. Against the backdrop of social unrest in 60’s Chicago, Karen Reyes takes it upon herself to investigate the murder of her upstairs neighbour, holocaust survivor Anka Silverberg.

My Favourite Thing is Monsters may be Emil Ferris’ debut, but it brings with it an emotional clout that dwarfs most of the competition, and draws comparison with the best work of Art Spiegelman. Rife with B-movie horror and pulp magazine influences, the book takes the reader on an emotional journey as Reyes struggles to understand the idea of monsters and monstrousness. Whether they’re found in NAZI Death camps, playground battlefields or the urban squalor of 60’s Chicago, Ferris’ masterpiece is chock full of them.

House of Penance

A genre-bending mashup of Gothic Horror and Western, House of Penance is set in the home of Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. It’s a fortune that diminishes by the day, as she employs an army of labourers to constantly expand her house as both penance for, and to protect herself from, the army of ghosts slain by her family’s weapons.

Peter J. Tomasi and Ian Bertram weave a darkly beautiful tale that explores the themes of grief and guilt. The story makes literal the idea of being burdened with a legacy of violence using stunning imagery that leaps off the page. They play fast and loose with the real character of Sarah Winchester, deciding that all of her employees were chosen because of their own bloody pasts. In the house of Winchester, all debts are repaid in full.

Black Monday Murders

Jonathan Hickman
and Tom Coker present: why you shouldn’t trust the banks. Turns out that the thing underpinning our current financial system is an occult conspiracy involving the worshipping of demons. Theo Dumas is a New York City Detective whose investigation into a murder uncovers the machinations of much larger and more ancient forces. Slowly, he pieces together a story of power, money and ritual sacrifice thousands of years In the making.

It’s a perfect intersection between horror and film noir with a stunning , moody art style and a slow-burning plot. The world of Black Monday Murders is immersive and chillingly grounded in realism. It unfolds to reveal its secrets with confidence and craftsmanship.

The Girl from the Other Side

The mysterious world of The Girl from The Other Side is populated by ‘Outsiders’, almost-human creatures whose touch can curse. Together with one of these Outsiders, a young girl named Shiva travels through a landscape ravaged by a strange plague. Developing a touching if somewhat creepy relationship, the odd pair protect each other from the plague and from those sworn to destroy all those exposed to it.

The story mixes a whole heap of mythologies together to create an authentic-feeling dark fairy tale. Reading it is an almost ambient experience with minimal dialogue and simple illustrations, all of which combine to create an unsettling, dreamlike experience for the reader. The minimalist style often veers over into the outright creepy, with most characters lacking faces and much of the action seeming to take place before a grey void of nothingness. It’s a series that keeps its cards close to its chest, but hints at a rich mythos which makes readers eager to pick up the next instalment.

Anno Dracula

Based on the Kim Newman series of novels that build upon the existing mythology of Dracula’s story using Kim’s fathomless genre knowledge, Anno Dracula is a horror comic that delivers gore by the bucketload.

Anno Dracula tells the story of a world in which Dracula was never defeated, and travelled to England to infiltrate the royal family and install himself as Prince Regent. Ten years into his rule, anarchists are plotting his overthrow, and battling with his sinister secret police; the Grey Men.

The series takes place before the events of Newman’s second novel, in the run up to World War 1. More of a steampunk romp than a horror fable, Anno Dracula is a fun, gothic adventure which perfectly captures the wit and invention of Newman’s novel series.

Aliens: Dead Orbit

Described by critics as the best work in the Alien canon since James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens: Dead Orbit is a series that more than lives up to its hype. It’s a true labour of love for creator James Stokoe, who acts as writer, artist, colourist and letterer on the series.

Drenched in suspense and intrigue, the plot is the sequel that fans wanted to see: A Weyland-Yutani Corp station is visited by an unknown unresponsive ship. Cue hapless crew forced to investigate. Cue Aliens. The formula is tried and true, but you just can’t fault its execution. Characterisation is tight, the atmosphere is taught and when scares need to be delivered, Stokoe has them in spades.

A one-man show it may be, but Stokoe is not a man who can be accused of cutting corners. The level of detail in every single panel is superb, and every image demands close examination. The frames are cluttered, but Stokoe is a master manipulator, drawing the eye of the viewer wherever it is most needed, so that the gorgeous illustrations never overwhelm the narrative.

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