This week marks the peak of Spook Season: autumn breezes, longer nights, and even a full moon for Halloween. If scary movie marathons and American Horror Story binges aren’t doing the trick, or you need more fuel for your cauldron, this list is for you. Graphic novels are haunting, often overlooked mediums illustrated to amp up the thrill and the fear. These are the best graphic novels to keep you up at night and keep you reading until the very last page.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Supernatural and suspenseful, Sandman is the story of Morpheus, the god of Dreams. He escapes an occult ritual and goes on a journey for vengeance. Readers are introduced to Morpheus’s kingdom, the Dreaming, that fell into despair during his imprisonment, and his brethren, the Endless. Sandman’s initial cruelty makes for thrilling moments and as his character grows, so does the darkness around him. With an electric plot, Sandman keeps the pages turning and gives you a good excuse to leave the lights on.
Adamtine by Hannah Berry
A master take on a classic figure, Berry’s story starts with a simple premise: an accused serial killer delivers notes from “a bogeyman. A monster.” He disappears, and the plot expands and entrances in complexity, only to unfold with astounding, and terrifying clarity. Four strangers on the late train home, whose pasts hold the key to the mystery, are forced to confront the very same terror. Full of hidden images, cover to cover, it not only terrifies, but it demands a reread.
Locke & Key by Joe Hill
Keyhouse, the haunted house on the hill, is the New England home of the Lockes. Nina Locke, the widow of Rendell Locke, moves her family to the Locke ancestral seat following his death. The family, overcome by grief, fails to see the forest for the trees, but the secrets of Keyhouse–and the creature lurking inside–are slowly revealed. What ensues is a combination of real terror and psychological terror for the Lockes, who must learn to survive in the darkness surrounding them.
Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror by Junji Ito
The foggy town of Kurôzu-cho, nestled on the Japanese coast, is cursed by a mysterious supernatural force. It manifests as spirals, and only three people are aware of it: Kirie Goshima and Shuichi Saito, two high school students, and Saito’s father, who is increasingly obsessed with the spirals. The manifestations of these spirals is increasingly disturbing, and the black and white illustration only amplifies it. Get ready to never look at spirals the same way ever again.
Wytches by Scott Snyder
These aren’t the wytches you’re used to. The citizens of Litchfield, New Hampshire, sacrifice people to these ancient forest-dwellers for favors and boons. That’s bad news for the Rooks, the new family in town, who are running from their own family trauma. Rumors in their old home drove them away, and followed them to Litchfield. This ostracizes their daughter, Sailor, the first to learn about the town’s dark secret. This interesting and ravenous take on witches transports readers to the haunting chill of the New England night, the birthplace of American horror.
Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, and Jose Villarrubia
With a topic that feels very current, Aisha, a Muslim-American woman, struggles to deal with xenophobia from her new neighbors, and even from her mother-in-law. What this graphic novel does is take that xenophobia and personifies it in truly horrifying forms that Aisha is prey to as she learns more about her housing complex’s past.
Clean Room by Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt, and Quinton Winter
Reporter Chloe Pierce’s fiance commits suicide after devoting himself to the teachings of a self-help book. The self-help book’s author has created a cult that has incredible influence. Chloe’s reporting instincts and her quest for answers drive her to learn the truth, even if she has to infiltrate the Clean Room, the cult’s headquarters. What she finds is worse than she, or you, could have ever imagined.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Behind You is an anthology of five short horror stories, full of ghosts, awful morality, haunted houses, and beautiful art. Each story is grounded in the dark fairy tale motif, as creatures of the night, humans included, emerge with thrilling and terrifying consequences. The two standout stories are “His Face All Red” and “The Nestling Place,” but all of the stories deserve to be read, in dark sleepless nights or midday–with a light on.
Trick ‘r Treat by Michael Dougherty
The 2007 film has been adapted into a graphic novel, the first of which gives you four individual stories of that iconic Halloween night, but travels back to 1950s Los Angeles and small town America in Trick r’ Treat: Days of the Dead. Days of the Dead also adds another four stories, satisfying the noir and period piece itch and using them to add to the thrills. With an omnibus just released in September, binging this incredible graphic novel has never been easier.
Whimsical and Ghibli-esque, what doesn’t seem much like a horror story soon devolves into a cold, dark, reality, reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. Lilliputians, fruit fly-sized people are removed from their home and the protagonist, Aurora, becomes a leader of the tiny refugees. A close betrayal changes Aurora’s outlook on the group and her life, and she is corrupted into a self-serving survivalist. Things get dark very quickly, and it’s as appalling as it is impossible to put down.
And that’s your top 10! With Halloween around the corner, these kills-and-thrills are perfect for getting you in the spirit of the night. I just wouldn’t leave any doors cracked ajar for a little while. Happy haunting!