Writer: Richard Corben
Artist: Richard Corben
Letterer: Richard Corben
Cover: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This week sees the return of Dark Horse Comics “Shadows on the Grave”, an eight-issue anthology horror comic book series. The mastermind by the project is 2012 Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Richard Corben (Ragemoor, Werewolf). First released in December 2016, each issue contains a mix of four frightening tales, ever-including the ongoing saga of Denaeus, a Greco-Roman-era version of Corben’s Den from Heavy Metal. Here is the official summary for issue #7:
Four new tales of the macabre, including a journey through a labyrinthine tomb and the penultimate installment of the epic Denaeus.
What marks “Shadows on the Grave” out from other horror anthologies is that Corben is at the helm in every way. Acting as the writer, artist, and cover designer, Corben achieves a harmony in his morbid creation that can only exist when everything from the words to the grisly images are spawned in the same mind. Issue #7 picks up where the last instalment left off as far as “Denaeus” is concerned, but before that there’s three other horrific tales to sink your teeth into.
The first deals with old Joshua Bullard and his failing health. His nephews are sniffing round his fortune, but Bullard has no intention of giving them another loan to settle gambling debts. His butler, Heywood, is also hiding his intentions. What all three will realise is Joshua Bullard has planned for his demise far longer than they’ve been scheming..
In the second story, Jed Aukman acts as gravedigger for his demanding cousin Dr. Hardell Benrik, while in the third, we’re given a glimpse at why you might want to give the next roadside horror museum a skip. The issue wraps up with a return to the ancient world for a second-to-last glimpse at the hero Denaeus.
Overall, the writing of SOTG is sharp, economic, and more than a little fun. Similarly, Corben uses almost caricature images in his art, giving the rather haunting anthology an unusually creepy feel. The same bubbly sketches are present on the cover, though here the grey-wash found inside is swapped for a more fleshed out, full-colour finish.
Ultimately, fans of blood n’ gore may not find much to their liking. But while SOTG is peeled back in this sense, it is very much one foot in the grave when it comes to churning up suspense and leaving readers with too much to think about. Richard Corben wields the pen with a sort of poetic justice that isn’t always found in the horror genre, and so perhaps throws up more surprises than we expect. All in all, it’s not the anthology that readers are likely to lose sleep over, but certainly one which will add to the legacy Corben has established in his adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.