Welcome back to another edition of Scary’s Highlights!
It’s October, my favorite time of the year! As a dedicated fan of Horror, this month has a special place in my heart leading up to the best holiday ever, Halloween!
Unfortunately, there won’t be any Trick-or-Treating this year given that Corona has us all hunkered down at home. If you’re feeling disappointed there won’t be any candy gathering and pumpkin-smashing this year, well let me brighten your spirits by recommending to you webcomics that are certain to scare the skeleton right out of you!
This week, we have For Love, Succubus, and Soul To Call.
Buckle down, witches and ghouls. Things are about to get spooky!
Now, when you think of Horror, probably the last thing you imagine is Romance, but the two are, arguably, inseparable. Not all Horror stories have Romance, of course, but Romance, specifically Gothic Romance, gave birth to the genre with novels like Frankenstein, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, etc. The link between Horror and Romance still persists to this day. Heck, not too long ago we had an Oscar-winning movie that’s basically horny Creature from the Black Lagoon fanfiction.
Speaking of horny, let’s talk about For Love, a queer horror webcomic about the tryst between the Angel of Death and a lustful demon. Our odd couple first meet when the Angel of Death stumbles upon a sex demon shacking it up with a married man. Death continues to play Peeping Tom until they’re discovered. Instead of tearing the angel to shreds, the sex demons becomes interested. They get to know one another and soon develop a passionate, forbidden romance that would make Romeo and Juliet jealous.
The art for the series is entirely colored with a limited palette. Each comic is white, black, and a single selected primary color. Now, these primary colors are done in various shades, but they never cross over with one another. This leads to very striking visuals on every page and in every panel. Images pop out at you, then draw you into a scene dripping with a sensual atmosphere.
Then there are the character designs which are fleshy and grungy. No one is a perfect sculpture. They are fat, have birthmarks and wrinkles, and spots all over their bodies. Not to mention fangs, claws, and other demon accessories. I love how Capes is dedicated to making his monsters look like actual monsters, even the Angel of Death. You know how angels are normally depicted like Greek sculptures. Well, in this series, they look like this:
I guess in this universe Cthulhu is God.
The sexuality in the series is the same way. While not downright porn, it’s not a tasteful version either (particularly given the sex demon’s procivlity toward nudism). The attraction between the supernatural couple feels dirty, steamy, and passionate. At any moment, they could go rolling around on the ground, pinning each other down, and doing some very, very naughty foreplay before rawhiding until the sun goes down.
Woooo. Pardon me.
But it’s not just about the horniness. Despite their inhuman nature, both the Angel of Death and sex demon are incredibly relatable. The chemistry they exhibit is so natural, much more so than even mainstream romances. You can tell it in the subtle, gradual ways they change in speaking to, looking at, and touching one another. It’s effortlessly done in just one issue.
The love and affection these two show for each other is so enduring, especially in scenes where the lust demon helps the Angel of Death realize how messed up his relationship is with the Holy Host. For Love might have the aesthetics of a horror story, but it is most of all a tale of healing through love, real and unconditional love. I’m gonna be a bit sappy here and say that as someone who has for a long time struggled with self-loathing, it meant a lot to me reading a comic where someone with similar feelings, someone without an ideal body type, meets a partner that loves them in a way to help love themself. I know from experience how important that is, and I love seeing it captured in a comic about monster romance.
Even though this review is very short, I honestly can’t recommend the series enough. If you’re starving for more The Shape of Water type stories but naughtier, do yourself a favor and go check it out!
Now that we’ve talked about a healthy monster romance, let’s move on to a toxic one! Yeah!
No, no. Not like that. At least, not exactly.
Succubus is about a young man named Luca who has recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend. Feeling bad about it, Luca meets a red-headed woman named Meribel. They hit it off and have a one-night stand. While making the two-backed beast, Luca notices something off. He experiences pain just as much as pleasure, pain that burns and drains the life out of him, yet he wants more. What started off as a rebound soon turns into a nightmare of desire twisted into obsession, of romance into parasitism.
Succubus has a lot in common with SarahN’s previous series, Daniel, a masterpiece vampire comic about a woman terrorized by her vampiric boyfriend. Hmm, toxic relationships involving life-draining monsters? Well, SarahN’s certainly has a brand to her name.
The art style is also similar save the addition of color. Now, I should mention that SarahN’s art is strong enough to be in black-and-white. She has such a mastery of both atmosphere and both body and facial expression, and because of that Daniel is better than a good number of mainstream comics that struggle with both despite having every color in the Skittle pack. Also, given the fact Daniel was set in the 1930s, the choice of black-and-white made aesthetic since. The comic really felt like classic vampire movies such as Dracula and Nosferatu.
Adding color to Succubus, which takes place in modern times, also makes an aesthetic sense. Plus, it amplifies everything that already makes SarahN’s style great. The atmosphere has a lustful, demonic vibe to it, especially in later scenes where reality starts to look more and more like the nightmare sequence from Rosemary’s Baby. The way character’s express emotion, especially ones of terror or sinister attentions, feels like their eyes are staring right into you, digging deep into your soul to experience similar visceral reactions. Adding color in Succubus doesn’t make it better than Daniel. It’s more of what you love with additional spice.
Story wise, there aren’t many surprises in store. Succubus plays the tropes of its titular monster straightforward without irony or the kneejerk need to “subvert” expectations (i.e., try too hard to not be *problematic*). Which isn’t too say that it doesn’t do any neat twists.
In this case, the twist is on your perception of the protagonist. Yes, Luca does at first seem to be just a normal guy who had his heart broken. We’ve all been there. However, SarahN cleverly places in clues that make you second guess his whole sad boy facade. When the twist comes, you might not expect such a sharp turn in Luca’s personality, but if you go back and reread previous pages, you’ll realize it was there to begin with.
Succubus isn’t all the way done yet. I have no idea how long it’s going to be, but like all of SarahN’s stories, I have no doubt that it will rip my heart out and eat it in front of me by the time it’s all over. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The comic is Patreon-exclusive right now for SarahN’s $3 a month, plus some additional goodies. Honestly, $3 a month for a comic this fun and high quality is worth it.
After talking about two steamy Horror comics about Romance, let’s go to one about a less sexy but still vital social connection: Friendship. And there is nothing quite like friendship under fire, especially when that fire is a Lovecraftian post-apocalypse! Hey, if someone’s not willing to have your back by then, they were never a true homie.
Soul to Call follows the journey of Avril Falk as she searches for her father in a world overtaken by cosmic monstrosities from another dimension. Along the way, she meets up with James O’Brian, a mercenary working for an authoritarian regime known as the Order, and Eli, a young boy who has similar powers to the monsters. The three meet under unlikely circumstances and form an even more unlikely bond. They’ll need each other to survive the threats they face, both human and non-human. And maybe, just maybe, they will find what they’re really looking for in each other.
I’ll confess that Soul To Call is a series I’ve been reading for awhile and that I’ve previously reviewed elsewhere. Yes, I am retreading some old reading material again, but for good reason! The story is heating up to the third act of an exciting new arc, one involving a jailbreak. And that’s as much as I’m gonna tell you because you should start reading Soul to Call right away. It is, hands down, one of the best horror webcomics out there, and here’s why.
It all starts with the art which is clearly manga inspired, both with character faces and certainly the panel layouts which decompress action as dramatically as possible. You get a lot of great fight scenes, a lot of great chase scenes too given Avril is a parkour runner. There’s rarely ever a dull moment in the comic. Although, even the less action-packed, more dialogue and character-driven scenes have their own dramatic flair to them. This has to do with character acting, something Lang excels at, but it also has to do with her spectacular grasp of color.
Color in Soul to Call is often done in a psychedelic way. It’s not just for show though. Now, I can’t give any specific examples right now, but whatever the scene calls for, either red for when a monster comes out to play or blue during a moment of self-reflection, Lang always applies it in a way to fully capture the mood of the scene. She also makes sure to design panel layouts and lettering to match as well. It just shows how much attention to detail is going on, every bit of art plays a role and isn’t just an afterthought.
Speaking of attention to detail, we got to talk about the monster designs. Yes, the humans are all designed distinctively so that you immediately recognize each face to the name they’re given, but like any good horror the monsters are the real visual stars here. Lang’s monsters are cosmic body horror monstrosities that are a mishmash between Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and the Hellraiser series. They’re all humanoid monstrosities with animalistic and/or metallic appendages to them. Some of the most horrifying monsters are apparitions of humanity in eternal suffering straight out of Hieronymus Bosch’s greatest nightmares. They will definitely give the spooks, and after seeing characters encounter one of these eldritch ghoulies, you might just need a cold shower and a hug.
Another great detail Lang takes great care of are the environments. They don’t just look pretty, but they also do the hefty lifting in providing backstory. There isn’t a lot of exposition in the series, and frankly doesn’t need it. Symbols, newspaper articles, photographs, and even cryptic graffiti on the walls are all that tells what you need to know about this world on a basic level. For horror in particular, it’s a much more effective tool of storytelling than someone explaining every little thing for five whole freaking pages until you rightfully get bored and go watch a movie instead. Show don’t tell, as they say, and when it comes to showing, Lang knocks the ball out of the court.
If the art isn’t enough of a selling point, then let me tell you about the characters. Each and every one of them is a fleshed out person with complexity. You will both be frustrated by and care deeply for them, just like real people. Avril is a bull-headed jerk with tunnel vision, but can also be a brave and loyal friend. James seems like your typical grim antihero, but deep down has the heart of a golden retriever. As for Eli, boy does he have some demons, yet has compassion for even the worst kind of person. The friendship that develops between all three and additional characters is natural and enduring. You want to see the group survive, thrive, and spend Christmas together (which, by the way, there is a side comic about that).
Even the villains have layers to them. The main two are Eve Volvoka and Marcus Mendoza, loyal soldiers for the authoritarian Order who are dedicated to wiping out the monsters and all those who ally with them. Eve has ice water for blood and a black hole where her heart should be, yet I can’t admire her dedication. Even Mendoza, a borderline sociopath, has some baggage that doesn’t excuse him but recognizes his humanity. To accomplish this while also still hoping they get eaten is superb character writing.
Probably the best new character though is Tiffany Liu, an investigator with a long history with James. The current arc really fleshed her out as a cunning, sharp-as-a-wip character that you will instantly love. The best I can describe her is the Legolas of the group, just as charming and, thankfully, slightly less Gary Sueish. In fact, if you’re more into character drama, this current arc is a good jumping on point. While the previous arc is more focused on introducing you to the world and the various beasts that live in it, the current arc is all about getting to know each of the human characters much more intimately.
Which doesn’t mean Soul to Call ever has difficulty balancing both character and plot. In fact, it’s one of those rare stories that perfectly balances. If you’re into bloody cosmic horror but also want a good dose of character drama, then I can’t think of a better series to read.
hat’s all for now, peeps! Enjoy these recommendations and I’ll see you next time with even more horror webcomics to check out!
Check out Alan Capes’s Patreon
Check out Katherine Lang’s Patreon