Halloween home-reading list
By Ces Cabangon
First posted 01:50am (Mla time) Nov 02, 2005 / Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on Page C2 of the November 2, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE DARKNESS NEVER FAILS to seduce and haunt us. Its void gives birth to nightmares and beings that dance outside the limits of reason. Thus we search for sanctuaries, or create works that mirror our fragility. From our well of emotions, art and stories bleed onto a blank page, fueled by angst, pain, fear—ingredients that can rouse the macabre and the fantastic from the hidden depths of our soul. Perhaps you’ll recognize your own monster from the abyss, shrouded in pictures or words from another’s whispers or screams.

This Halloween, wander through borderlands past witching hours with some self-contained graphic novels. These titles may cause your heart spasms. Yet they are also for you to reflect on the things that gnaw in the stillness of hours—your own mortality, truths in shades of gray, the delirium of change.

These comics must be approached with an open mind as themes revolve around the farthest levels of Dante’s inferno where redemption and happy endings are not as
you know them to be. They are not for everyone, but then again, neither is the darkness.

‘Arkham Asylum’ by Grant Morrison

The gut: It’s April Fool’s Day and the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken control. In exchange for the hostages’ lives, Batman must accept the Joker’s challenge to play a game of hide and seek. Sounds easy? Not if you have to deal with the likes of the Scarecrow, Two-Face, Mad Hatter, and other demented villains under one roof.

The stake: This is not your typical Batman tale as our hero explores the intricate maze of insanity and questions his own mental stability. The disturbing narrative is a triptych of Bruce Wayne, Batman, and the asylum’s founder, Amadeus Arkham. From their points of view, we delve into their psyches and the villains’ own broken ones, and what plagues their emotional core.

‘The Crow’ by James O’Barr

The gut: Eric is killed callously and his girlfriend made to suffer a brutal end. The immensity of his pain allows him to return from the dead through the power of the crow. With his voodoo smile, wicked poetry, and arsenal of rage, Eric seeks vengeance on the murderers.

The stake: It took James O’Barr 10 years to complete the story of “The Crow.” The anguish of losing his fianceĆ© after a hit-and-run was the catalyst that drove him to create this tale where justice can be sought even beyond the grave. “The Crow” just tugs at your heart as every page encapsulates the author’s/character’s hurts and sorrows. Amid the killing rampage, Eric breaks through emotional walls and brings touching insights on humanity and love.

‘Death: The High Cost of the Living’ by Neil Gaiman

The gut: Once every century, Death of the Endless takes mortal form in order to understand and experience what it means to be mortal and what it takes to leave your life behind. In mortal form, Death befriends Sexton, a teen contemplating suicide. Together, they spend a day strolling through New York, searching for a witch’s heart and eating bagels.

The stake: Death is no grim reaper but someone sweet, honest, witty, friendly, and quite cheery. She makes you think, laugh, and treasure the spontaneity of every moment. This book gives a very good introduction to Death that one who is unfamiliar with “The Sandman” series can follow the story.

‘Dhampyr’ by David Hontiveros

The gut: Nikolai is a dhampyr, born from a human mother and an undead father. In order to save his soul from restlessly wandering for eternity, he must find and slay his father. Nikolai’s personal journey leads him through a train wreck of memories, where the collision of the past and the present both haunt and strengthen him in his battles.

The stake: This comic bites you from the start and gets your blood humming. Its narrative is a vicious delight and the detailed artwork is darkly seductive and amazing. In its pages you will stumble into snippets from notable bands and icons from the goth movement you might want to look into.

‘From Hell’ by Alan Moore

The gut: A very complex take on one of history’s most gruesome and mysterious personalities—Jack the Ripper. From the beginning, readers know who the killer is and are assailed with the depths of his genius and his unraveling.

The stake: This work is brilliant as it is grounded on meticulous research from Victorian London to the Freemasons. The intriguing conspiracies and intelligent theories are mind-blowing. What adds to the horror is that fact and fiction seem to fit perfectly, as the White Chapel murders are true accounts.

‘In The Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe’ by Jonathan Fuqua

The gut: A scholar is forced to re-examine his vision of Poe as he leafs through a diary which may have been written by the author before his death. The memoir begins with Poe consenting to demons to escort him through life and the grave.

The stake: When demons are no longer imprisoned in one’s mind, what does one do? Facts and speculations on Poe’s tormented character are woven to produce this perverse and disconcerting tale. The artwork, composed of manipulated photographs, adds to the distressing tone of the narration.

‘The Thief of Always’ by Clive Barker

The gut: In the Holiday House, Harvey Swick discovers many wonders where seasons pass in a day and every night is Halloween. But something is not right in this magical place and Harvey vows to get to the bottom of it.

The stake: Classic reading takes you through the innocence and magic of childhood. Though the plot seems simple, its elements are striking and leave you awed. This not-so-ordinary children’s story has many lessons to impart despite its edgy creepiness.

All titles available at Comic Quest and Fully Booked.