It’s Halloween season at Marvel Comics. That means it’s time for spooky, scary Woman-Things, monsters that go howl in the night, and the annual return of Marvel’s horror anthology, Crypt of Shadows #1. The issue features stories of many of Marvel’s All Hallows Siblings, e.g., Baron Blood, Daughter of the Darkhold, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget that this week is also the debut of Deadly Neighborhood Spider-Man, who isn’t the spookiest Spider-Person to grace the pages of Marvel Comics on Stephen King Day… and that’s saying something!
What did you think of this week’s horror anthology? What are your favorite Marvel horror comics? The Beat is waiting to hear from you! We’ll anxiously await your thoughts, either in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat!
Crypt of Shadows #1
Writers: Al Ewing, Danny Lore, Chris Cooper, Rebecca Roanhorse, Adam Warren, and Chris Condon
Artists: Ramón F. Bachs, Karen S. Darboe, Geoff Shaw, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Fran Galán
Color Artists: Rain Beredo, Cris Peter, Arif Prianto, Neeraj Menon, James Campbell, and Guru-eFX
Letter: Travis Lanham
Horror is a huge part of pop culture, thanks largely to Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. A genre that used to be relegated to Halloween Time, it is now a significant portion of media year-round (although it definitely picks up for the fall season) – and comic books are no different.
Before the Comic Code Authority launched the age of living vampires and flesh-eating plant things, horror comics thrived in the 1940s and 1950s. Establishing the genre was Avon Periodicals’ Eerie #1, a one-shot anthology that is considered the first true, stand-alone horror comic, in 1947. The issue featured six stories that are pretty tame compared to today’s standards, from “The Eyes of the Tiger,” about a man haunted by the ghost of a stuffed tiger, to Edward Bellin and Joe Kubert‘s “The Man-Eating Lizards,” which is not about a cabal of man-eating Jews (cough, cough ex-Mandalorian star turned anti-Semite/transphobe) and Fred Kida‘s “The Strange Case of Henpecked Harry,” about a man haunted by the ghost of his murdered wife. Although Eerie disappeared from shelves for three years, it sparked a new genre: the horror anthology, and by 1953, nearly a quarter of all comics published were horror titles.
After the anti-horror Code loosened its restrictions on spooky content, Marvel Comics was part of the push to bring horror into the mainstream, with many of these 1970s Marvel horror titles still remembered by comic book horror fans almost a half-century later. And while Marvel’s major focus on horror is a thing of the past, its annual horror anthology, spooky online one-shots, and Halloween holiday specials continue that tradition. This time of year often produces some of Marvel’s most interesting content annually. In this vein, Crypt of Shadows #1 does not disappoint, especially with all of the issue’s Halloween treats referencing classic Marvel horror and Lanham’s epic black-and-orange lettering.
Like any good horror anthology (Tales of the Crypt), this issue is framed with a spooky narrator who leads the reader on a journey through a group of dark tales set in the Marvel horror verse. The issue is narrated by Baron Blood, a.k.a. Doctor Strange’s villainous brother Victor Strange, who has very few previous Marvel appearances, and you’d be totally forgiven if you forgot that he existed (although the character recently returned with a new ‘do as a black-haired maven in Marvel Infinity Comics Strange Tales, “The Tale of Strange,” by Al Ewing, Ramón F. Bachs, Java Tartaglia, and VC’s Joe Caramagna).
Crypt of Shadows #1 also does some heavy lifting to expand and explore Marvel’s horror universe, including the recently introduced feature of Marvel’s anthologies, the “What to Read Next” page that tells readers which issues to check out if they like the characters they’ve read about in an anthology. Throughout the years, Marvel has introduced a spooky character or two or 1,000,000,0000,0000 to its universe via limited series, making it difficult for the reader to keep track of all these characters and their 20-odd appearances in the Marvel horror verse, so I think that this feature is a great addition to the anthologies (of course, it also helps promote Marvel so that it can make more money, but hey, everything is about two birds one stone these days).
Brielle Brooks, Daughter of Blade
Speaking of promoting Marvel’s new content, the first story in Crypt of Shadow #1 made me do a double take. Did Marvel know that it was my week to review? First introduced in Free Comic Book Day 2022: Avengers/X-Men, Brielle Brooks is the teenage, half-vampire daughter of Blade, who is getting her series next February. In Crypt of Shadows #1, we learn more about Bri for the first time, and she’s dressed as a wolf – a wolf in need of her Little Red Rebecca Hood. I don’t know if I am reading too much into the end of the “Neither Big Nor Bad” story, but I hope we get to meet Little Red Rebecca Hood in Bloodline: Daughter of Blade and that she is Bri’s partner in crime and in life (with Lore writing the new series, I think that is a distinct possibility).
I won’t be disappointed if my head canon that Bri and Rebecca are an item isn’t real, but also, I will be disappointed if my head canon that a new Black queer hero is joining the Marvel Multiverse doesn’t turn out to be true. My faith is in Lore and Karen S. Darboe.
Jake Gomez, Elsa Bloodstone, Woman-Thing! Oh My!
In “Werewolf by Moon Knight” by Rebecca Roanhorse, Geoff Shaw, Arif Prianto, and VC’s Travis Lanham, fans see the return of Jake Gomez and Molly from Taboo‘s 2020 run of Werewolf by Night. As a HOPING HUGE fan of that run, I couldn’t be more excited. Plus, if you are a fan of the classic Jack Russell stories, this anthology short finally gives readers a showdown that is 50 years in the making.
While I really want to talk about every single story in this anthology, there could be a whole book of analysis on the POC and queer horror themes that run throughout the anthology and on the history of Marvel characters introduced in the stories, so what I think you should do is go out and buy Crypt of Shadows for yourself… Not only does it bring back some of Marvel’s least-known villains from the Glam Rock era of Marvel, but it is also the first time in a while that I’ve felt like a Marvel comic has something new to say, a credit to the diversity of talent that Marvel hired for this project. More comics like this, pretty please, with a Man-Thing eye on top!
Oh, and Woman-Thing is great. We need more Woman-Thing because I never knew salad could be so grotesque. Truly, she is the Bad Vegan.
- Deadly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
- In Deadly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 by B. Earl, Taboo, Juan Ferreyra, Travis Lanham, and Rahzzah, Peter Parker is visiting the E.S.U. Tech Sonic Research Laboratory in Pasadena, California… but he’s bringing some spooky baggage along with him! This storyline draws on backstory from 2021’s Spine-Tingling Spider-Man Infinity Comic by Saladin Ahmed, Ferreyra, and Joe Sabino, in which Parker faced off against the Sleep-Stealer in a (literal) nightmare realm. In Deadly Neighborhood, Spidey once again finds himself visiting a spooky alternate universe, surreal landscapes which Ferreyra renders with aplomb. In addition, the SoCal setting gives the art a chance to alternate between the macabre parallel universe and Spidey riding atop a bus driving the PCH, creating a binary that serves both narrative threads well. Plus, both Peter’s science-y mystery and his friends and activities in Los Angeles work well for the narrative. Finally, while Ghostbusters references may be a dime a dozen these days, +1 for specifically mentioning the inimitable Rick Moranis. —AJK