Crypt of Shadows (2019)

One of the more interesting ways in which Marvel is celebrating their 80th anniversary this year is with a number of thematic one-shot anthologies, hearkening back to an era in which superheroes did not dominate the spinner racks. This week we get a new issue of War Is Hell, last published in 1975, featuring stories by the inimitable Howard Chaykin. More exciting (for me, anyway), is the release of a new Crypt of Shadows, written by the new king of four-color horror, Al Ewing, and featuring visceral art by a talented trio of terrifying illustrators.

For Marvel’s 80th Anniversary we’ve gone into the vaults to bring back some classic titles from the Marvel of yesteryear…but maybe some vaults should stay closed! Something terrifying has broken free and crawled forth from one of the most terrifying corners of Marvel-dom, the CRYPT OF SHADOWS! Prepare for terror! The shadows are deeper than you think, and horrors lurk within…

The original Crypt of Shadows was a 70’s-era Marvel book, released during the time when the relaxation of certain Comics Code Authority restrictions opened the floodgates for monsters and mystery. This is the same creepy renaissance that gave us such titles as Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, Son of Satan, and Ghost Rider. Despite its release among those character-focused books, many of whom are integral figures in the Marvel universe even today, Crypt owed more to the anthology titles of horror’s heyday, the pre-code 1950’s. Trendsetting EC paved the way with classic books like Weird Science, Tales from the Crypt, and The Vault of Horror while Marvel’s predecessor, Atlas Comics, tried to keep up by putting out titles like Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, and Journey into Mystery (these examples morphed into superhero titles in the 1960’s).

Ewing is without a question an aficionado of those glorious old anthology series, and his EC horror-inspired work on The Immortal Hulk has turned that book into one of the best comics on the stand, in any genre (it was also our pick for the best release in Marvel’s recent “Fresh Start”). This new Crypt one-shot is a framed narrative featuring a “John Somebody” whose tales of terror are woven into a twisted psychoanalysis session.

Garry Brown, clearly, was born to draw this stuff. No kidding — the Scottish artist celebrates his birthday on October 31. He nails the atmospheric layouts, and connects with raw, emotive expressions in the main frame, “Cynophobia.” Stephen Green’s work on “Grave Errors!” is wonderfully spooky (love a good cemetery setting), and there are some sequences of art in “A Moment of Madness!” by Djibril Morissette-Pham that are honestly chilling.

A cool feature of this issue is the two-page afterward: an essay on Atlas/Marvel’s horror history by comics scholar and author Jim Beard and a chilling cover gallery spanning the decades. War Is Hell features a similar retrospective on combat comics.

Also new this week!

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Donny Cates & Geoff Shaw

It’s not really Thanos’s wake, but more like a make-sure-the-bastard-is-dead convention. And of course it goes sideways. The way in which this new, effed-up Guardians roster comes together is one of best parts of the first issue of this new volume of Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s a marvelous continuation of Cates’s Thanos Legacy one-shot.

January 16 | Weekly Buzz | January 30