Maybe anthologies are the new zombies. Though we're hardly wanting for ghoul-oriented fare - Walking Dead from Image shambles on, Marvel's Zombies are coming back for their third mini-series, and so on and so on – it seems like the explosive growth of the trend is over, we're headed into the long-awaited retrenchment, and it is high time for something new.
Let me propose, dear Screamers and Screamettes, that the next BIG thing in horror comics is the antho. Hear me out. Several one shots and mini-series have already come out from Marvel: the mostly campy Marvel Monster Group comics and more serious Legion of Monsters one shots. Viper put out Sasquatch. The daddy of all antho comics, Tales from the Crypt, can be found back on the comic rack. Doomed, a sort of neo-Tales, has made it to its first collection. DC hasn't yet re-launched House of Mystery, but give it time – they've got the Showcase editions of the original up to the second volume and that's got to be tripping off some sort of alarm in accounts receivable.
Into this crowded and competitive marketplace steps the young, polymath upstart of the Fox empire, Fox Atomic, with their recently released The Nightmare Factory.
I'll be honest, I did not have high expectations for this book. Fox Atomic has already dipped its toes into the comics field: it released prequel tie-ins to 28 Weeks Later and The Hills Have Eyes 2, the former filling the space between the two zombie flicks and the latter providing some insight into the origins of the miner-turned-mutant franchise villains. I thought both efforts were middling outings that seemed too much like the marketing pieces they were intended to be. It was promising that this book had no clear flick tie-in; but you can't fault a twice-bitten dude for being a little gunshy.
To my pleasant surprise, The Nightmare Factory is freakin' fabulous. Fox Atomic has picked up some hints from the excellent Doomed and, like the student that has become the master, taken all they've learned a step further.
First, they swiped Doomed's line-up. The weirdly old-timey cover is the work of Doomed cover regular Ashley Wood and you can find the art of Doomed alum Ted McKeever within. After skimming some of the cream from Doomed they pulled marquee-name Ben Templesmith and Sandman vet Colleen Doran to art duties. That's a serious collection of fantasy/horror artists.
Next, they found primo source material and built the collection around it. Much the way Doomed maintains a coherent feel, despite the varied artist, by tapping the same authors again and again, The Nightmare Factory gives you the feel of a complete and unified work by concentrating on a single author: Thomas Ligotti. And, in choosing Ligotti, a cult figure who deserves greater recognition, NF actually outdoes its predecessor. Ligotti is a masterful practitioner of the "weird tale," part of the line of surreally existential horror writers who trace back through Bradbury (at his darkest), Lovecraft, and Poe. His works are darkly fantastic tales delivered with flawless precision of detail and control of tone. Wisely, instead of just handing Ligotti's work over to the artists, adaptation duties were handed over to Eisner winner Stuart Moore and vet horror screenwriter Joe Harris.
But don't take my word for it. See for yourself.
As you may or may not know, my wife is a bit of notable blogger in the world of book reviews, book retail, and the like. She was in communication with Fox Atomic about doing a Nightmare Factory-related Halloween event at the bookstore in which she works. The cats at Atomic asked if she'd be interested in doing a book giveaway on her blog. Horror's not her bag, so she sent them ANTSS-ward. Well, Screamers and Screamettes, her loss is our gain. First five fans to email your fave Screamin' blogger at CRwM44@yahoo[dot]com will receive a free copy of The Nightmare Factory. Is CRwM the most right-on reviewer ever? Is he utterly full of horse putucky? You make the call. Just shoot me an email with a mailing address and the book will be on its wicked little way. Free; gratis; like freesville, man. Can't beat that with a stick. Don't say your ol' pal CRwM never did nothin' for ya.