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‘Haunted Horror #12:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Haunted Horror #12 is an entertaining collection of mid-century horror stories from titles such as The Beyond, Adventure into Darkness, Out of The Shadows, and Chamber of Chills. Many of the anthologized tales share a concern with forbidden rituals and rites — which generally lead to predictable gothic scenarios, which more often than not conclude with a scoundrel coming to some well-deserved end. Fans of the genre will find a lot to love here; however, the style — high camp — and the content — rote horror — may hold little interest for readers with more modern sensibilities (e.g., those who think of horror as a field defined largely by rampaging zombies and twinkling vampires).

However, monsters aside, perhaps the most notable feature of works such as “Code of the Shadowmaster” and “Mind Over Matter” is the role of the narrator, who interjects at every opportunity to explain the illustrated actions and to move the story forward. It is a common enough conceit in Golden Age horror, and reminiscent of the title cards from the even earlier era of silent film. It would be easy enough to dismiss such overt and manipulative direction as evidence of weak or perhaps childish storytelling, but a more useful conclusion would regard how such storytelling works to help developing readers understand and make sense of the larger narrative. These comics were produced for younger readers at a time when the traditional superhero narrative that had been so popular during World War II had fallen out of favor. As a result, writers and artists had to find new ways to get readers interested and invested in their works. Panel-by-panel handholding was one of their more effective strategies. 

Consequently, throughout the anthology, and as evidenced in particular works like “Bride of Death” and “Your Head for Mine,” there is a premium placed on dialogue and description.  The artwork, while accomplished, functions as a sort of second-tier structure for conveying the plot. This is not to say that the artwork is inferior to the prose, because it is often very compelling; however, readers coming to these works for the first time will notice the difference, as contemporary horror comics tend to place a premium on the artwork first and the lettering second.

Throughout, there are a number of one-page entries included between the longer stories. In works like “Chilly Chamber Music” and “The Cloak of a Corpse,” the reader can get a nearly immediate sense of the anthology’s general tone and artistic range. These seemingly disposable tales feel a bit like padding at points, but in a collection such as this padding is actually a virtue. Readers who truly enjoy Haunted Horror #12 will do so because the various stories present rote horror conventions, which are in and of themselves pleasurable, usually in ways that defy their general packaging in any one particular work. The point is to enjoy the show for what it is, and what it is is mostly fun. It can be recommended for collectors, but not for general readerships.




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