Editors: Joe Corallo & Eric Palicki
Cover Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: A Wave Blue World
Just in time for Halloween, Dead Beats is open for business — erm, I mean, available for purchase. This music-themed horror anthology is as eclectic as an actual record store, and framed as if each story is an album shelved in one. At various points throughout the book, the Shoppe Keeper checks in to give you a “nickel tour” of the store, similar to the crypt keepers who host late-night horror programs. The effect is chilling — each time they appear, a new part of the shop is revealed, and the stories bleed into what’s happening as the reader takes the tour.
In addition to creating a unique throughline that connects each story in the anthology, these bits written by editors Joe Corallo and Eric Palicki establish a super creepy tone that works beautifully for the subject matter. With illustrations by Lisa Sterle and letters by Micah Meyers, each narrative interlude pulls the reader through a series of emotions — fear, stress, disgust — punctuated by macabre humor. Frankly, this format is one of the best elements of this anthology, which features a slew of superstar creators playing on incredibly specific fears: from bugs to cannibalism to death contracts, Dead Beats has it all.
Here are just a few stories that stand out:
- “The Interview,” written by Eric Palicki, illustrated by Liana Kangas, colored by Gab Contreras, and lettered by Taylor Esposito, is a special kind of nightmare for a journalist. It also evokes parts of Jennifer’s Body, which is a cult classic that not nearly enough people appreciate for its brilliance.
- “Vanishing,” written by Matthew Erman, illustrated by Sally Cantirino, and lettered by Matt Krotzer, gave me literal chills — ghastly, ghostly, and evocative, this deep woods tale features some truly terrifying panels.
- “Reversed Cards,” written by Nadia Shammas, illustrated by Sweeney Boo, and lettered by Zakk Saam, plays on misconceptions about the Tarot and how being too cocksure can be deadly — literally.
- “The Rider,” written by Tony Patrick, illustrated by Christopher Peterson, colored by Lesley Atlansky, and lettered by Matt Krotzer, is just… horrifying, through and through; it’s also an incredible commentary on identity, obligation, and greed.
- “Earworm,” written by Christof Bogacs, illustrated by Giles Crawford, and lettered by Taylor Esposito, is so genuinely horrifying that I had to walk away from Dead Beats and do a lap around my apartment before I could keep reading. This is a story that bleeds directly into a Shoppe Keeper interlude, and it’s perfectly done.
- “Beyond Her Years,” written by Ivy Noelle Weir, illustrated by Christina “Steenz” Stewart, and lettered by Micah Meyers, is the kind of ghost story that will make you think twice about visiting haunted buildings.
- “ABM,” written by Kwanza Osajyefo, illustrated by Eva Cabrera, colored by Claudia Aguirre, and lettered by Zakk Saam, puts racist murderers in their place.
- “Let’s Stay Together,” written by Vita Ayala, illustrated by Raymond Salvador, and lettered by Micah Meyers, brought me to tears. The second that what’s happening hits you, it feels like a gut-punch, and that feeling is still there as I write this blurb.
- “Delta Blues,” written by Tyler Chin-Tanner, illustrated by Ayşegül Sınav, and lettered by Micah Meyers, is visually stunning and absolutely bone-chilling.
- “Bone Dry,” written by Mark Bouchard, illustrated by Eli Powell, colored by Gab Contreras, and lettered by Micah Meyers, is a creepy, crawly treatise on the overwhelming power of alcohol to dim our senses and intuitions — it’s horrifying, but also heartbreaking.
- “There Might Be Monsters,” written by Daniel Kibblesmith, illustrated by Rafer Roberts, and lettered by Matt Krotzer, is a warning and a revenge tale that reads like catharsis for those of us who have been forced into politeness out of fear for our lives.
There are 24 stories in Dead Beats and each one hits on the theme of music and horror in its own unique way. There are moments in this anthology that will make the reader nauseous, that will make them sweat, that will make them want to throw the book, burrow under the covers, and never come out. Warning: Some of the comics in this anthology depict suicide, self-harm, murder, and sexual assault, so please proceed with caution.
Dead Beats taps into primal fears through the lens of music and comics, arguably two of the most evocative art forms in the world. If you want to dive into something scary, beautiful, and multi-layered, this is the book for you. Check out pages from “Shoppe Keeper Intro” below.