Every year, the people at Alterna Comics release an anthology of work based around a specific subject. In 2015 it was science fiction. In 2016 it was superheroes and in 2017 it was crime. Now, the 2018 edition of IF is preparing to be released, and the focus is on horror. IF ANTHOLOGY HORROR #1 from Alterna Comics will be released on January 23rd, 2019. Is it scary enough?
Cover: Peter Semeti
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Release Date: January 23rd, 219
Cover Price: $14.95
Previously in IF: After having tackled multiple genres over the past several years, the IF anthology now turns it attention toward the world of horror. How does this latest edition stack up?
A TRUE TOME OF HORROR
This is my first time settling in with the IF anthology series, and I must say that on first glance it is rather daunting. In-between the pages of this volume rest, uneasily, nearly one hundred-ninety pages of black and white horror. For sheer size and quantity, I would say it is well on its way to justifying its price before you even crack the cover. The average length of the stories come in at between six and eight pages, some running longer, some shorter. As a matter of space, I cannot list every one of the creators featured in this review, it is easily over fifty. But as I usually do with anthologies, I want to take a few moments to spotlight what were, for me, the top three stories in this volume.
“Bedtime Snack”, story and art by John Quigley, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. The monsters under the bed are starving, and when a new victim arrives, they begin to plan how to celebrate. Quigley’s art looks great and sets the mood for this short, four-page story. It works. It is creepy and contains a twist that would make Rod Serling proud.
“The Crib” with words by Anthony Cleveland and art by Anna Wieszczyk. An even shorter story told very well and completely. A baby girl awakens in her crib to find three disturbing youths at her feet, and they are compelling her to scream. A well-told story that makes spectacular use of the space it contains. There is no wasted space here. Wieszczyk has a nice manga style of art that adds to the creep factor.
“Suicide Woods”, written by Jeremy Shepherd with art by Gian Carlo Bernal. This one is a classic horror tale that makes wonderful use of its four pages. The specifics of what happens before are not relevant, you have all the information you need to know what is happening in the now; it has a horrific premise and will bring on the feels. The art by Gian Carlo Bernal is some of the best in this volume.
There are a few others worth noting. “Me & Myself” by Kevin Hamilton and Luis Banus works on a thread that is achingly familiar to some. “Horror on Hogger Hill” from Jamil Scalese and Claudio Munoz Cabrera has a sharp premise and nice swerve that could easily be worked out to a full issue. “Birthday Boy: from Clay McLeod Chapman and Jey Levang almost made my top three, with its creepy and Stephen King-like take on the entertainer at a child’s birthday party.
COULD A FUTURE STAR OF HORROR BE IN THIS BOOK?
I was born a hair too late to be a true “horror kid” but I have enjoyed the genre from a very young age. I have a very traditional idea of horror and overall the stories in this volume hit it just right. There are some, however, which missed the mark. There is a fine line between giving too much information and not enough. There is also an issue of making a child the focus of the horror factor. The aforementioned “Birthday Boy” hit this balance nicely, but another, “The Cellar Calls My Name” relies a little too much on the fact that the horror is perpetrated on a child. From the very first page of that story, you feel for the little boy, which is good, but he is given no way to fight back or even have a chance for salvation. In my opinion of horror, if the kid is an innocent victim, give them a way out. It does not have to be an easy way, but some chance at light. If the kid is a brat, or irredeemable, you do not feel as bad when the big bad comes for them. Again, my opinion. Nut I think there is enough true horror perpetrated on kids in the real world. It was not a story I wanted to re-read once I finished.
BOTTOM LINE: HORROR OR HORRIFIC, YOU WILL HAVE TO DECIDE
I think it all begins to boil down to your definition of horror. I love horror. I did re-read many stories presented in IF. It is a solid collection with some excellent stories that are well structured and genuinely frightful. That said, there are some that were not quite ready for prime time. From pacing, to the art, the reasons are varied, but regardless, it is a nice anthology of stories with a good scare factor.
IF, the 2018 Horror Anthology, hit many notes, some clear and some sour. Overall, I found more to enjoy than not.