Welcome to 5 for the Fandom! In this ComicsVerse weekly series, we take one of your favorite fandoms and suggest comics that match the tone, themes, or visual aesthetic of the original story. With Halloween swiftly approaching, this week we delve deep into the mental labyrinths and blood filled hallways of THE EVIL WITHIN!

It’s October, meaning pumpkin spice, chocolate treats, and tons and tons of horror. Halloween is slowly approaching, and with each passing day, I grow more excited. This is my favorite time of year. As the leaves turn and kids start to pick up their costumes, I lock myself in the basement for a good ol’ Halloween Fright Fest. This year, though, I added a new property to my list. With the recent release of THE EVIL WITHIN 2, I decided to purchase and play through the original cult classic. Almost immediately, I was hooked. The amount of ludicrous action, epic surrealism, and cheesy dialogue reminded me of some of my favorite horror movies. And these monster designs are TO DIE for!

The Evil Within
Courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

For those new to the series, here’s a quick run-down. Detective Sebastian Castellanos and his partners are assigned to investigate a brutal serial murder scene at the Beacon Memorial Hospital. When they arrive, they find dozens of police cars trashed. Their owners are all inside, cut to pieces. As they investigate, Sebastian has a run in with a strange hooded man named Ruvik. With a single thought, Ruvik literally twists the world around him. Buildings collapse, streets bend and join together, and the citizens of this quaint city become a horde of scarred monsters. Delving deeper into this new world order, Sebastian learns that nothing is as it seems, that the world is simply Ruvik’s twisted dreams made real.

Holy Ghost-amole!!: Serial Killers: Into The Mind Of Madness

After finishing the game, I can definitively say I haven’t slept for days. How have I spent my newfound time? By reading comics of course! Time to delve deep into the recesses of your mind with a little comic book therapy session!

1. NAILBITER by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson

the evil Within
Courtesy of Image Comics

This recommendation, at first glance, may seem like the furthest thing from THE EVIL WITHIN. NAILBITER, by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson, from Image Comics is a serial thriller focused on small-town America. With such a minute frame, one might think that despite the profusion of masked serial killers, Buckaroo, Oregon might seem too ordinary. However, NAILBITER is a perfect match for any fan of THE EVIL WITHIN. While it doesn’t portray jumpscares or truly tense set-pieces, this comic deals wholly with the horrors capable within the human mind. The entire story deals with psychosis and perception. The story, paired with the visceral, bloody nature of the events mirror the horrors found within Ruvik’s nightmare-scape. What makes it scarier? These occurrences aren’t happening in some far-away place. This is an American township like many others, and these people could be your next-door neighbor.

Episode 62: NAILBITER from Image Comics

Set within Buckaroo, the so-called “Birthplace of Serial Killers,” readers follow Nicholas Finch. Finch’s friend Charles Carroll disappeared while investigating the influx of serial killers born in Buckaroo, AKA the Buckaroo Butchers. The most recent of these is Edward Warren, labeled Nailbiter by the media for his tendency to eat the nails and fingertips of his victims. Though Warren seems reformed, Finch naturally suspects him. However, as the town’s mysteries come to light, Finch must team up with Warren to find the source of the Buckaroo Butchers. What they find, buried in a history of blood and gore, will change the very face of Buckaroo forever.

The NAILBITER series finished this past March with issue #30, giving you plenty of time to dip into this dark adventure. If you want to start at the beginning, you can purchase the TPB here. I do warn you though. This story is not for the faint of heart.

2. HELHEIM by Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones

The Evil Within
Courtesy of Oni Press

A recent find, HELHEIM by Cullen Bunn and Joelle Jones carries a lot of elements that I instantly love. First and foremost, it is built from Norse Mythology, dealing with the supernatural forces of that lore. Rikard, the son of a Viking war chief, leads his people against the Night Creatures. These demonic monsters, summoned by the witch Groa, kill Rikard by page ten. Seems a bit anticlimactic, no? However, Rikard has bedded and fallen in love with Groa’s eternal enemy, the witch Brea. Brea uses magic to sew Rikard’s head to a massive, undead Frankenstein-esque monster body, and twists his soul to fight her battle for her. However, part of Rikard still remains. As he gains more control of his new body, he grows more resolute to bring the Witch War to an end by any means necessary.

Regarding how HELHEIM meshes with THE EVIL WITHIN, I was surprised by the many parallels that exist between the two. While, again, this does not take place within a mental landscape, HELHEIM deals with many of the same themes that THE EVIL WITHIN tackles. Among these is the issue of control. Throughout Sebastian’s time in Ruvik’s nightmare-scape, he finds many people possessed by Ruvik. They have become monsters unto themselves. Sebastian, for whatever reason, is capable of battling through these mental manipulations. This means that he is the only person who can stop Ruvik. Rikard and Sebastian share this heroic trait between them, and, despite their shared lack of dialogue, the reader or player becomes intimately attached to their wars.

THE UNSOUND: Interview with Cullen Bunn

HELHEIM’s entire story is collected in two volumes of work, with no plans to publish anymore. With a heavy focus on fast-paced action, these stories are incredibly quick reads and totally worth your time. You can purchase volume 1 digitally here!

3. Shadowman by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher

The Evil Within
Courtesy of Valiant Entertainment

One of the most striking images from THE EVIL WITHIN stems from Sebastian’s “Level Up” room. To progress, Sebastian must tie himself to an electro-shock therapy apparatus and “treat” himself. Similarly, the monsters within Ruvik’s landscape were once regular people, who receive great strength by giving up a part of themselves. All power within the game comes at a cost. Much the same can be said of Shadowman Jack Boniface’s power set. Valiant Comics’ SHADOWMAN, by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher, has a long history, dating back to the company’s founding in 1992. And while this long history is highly interesting, it is the 2012 reboot that I have explored and wholly respect.

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Jack Boniface grew up without a family. The only thing he had to remember his parents was a stupid gold locket. It didn’t make up for growing up alone, but before she died, his mother thought he should have it. Reaching adulthood, Jack moves to New Orleans to learn what he can about his parents, and he gets rid of that stupid locket the first chance he gets. Little did he know, that locket hid him from the Deadside, the world beneath our own, and from the Shadow Loa, a powerful voodoo spirit. This being attaches itself to Jack, and for a long while, he becomes a great superhero, fighting bloody battles with monsters and spirits. However, as the Shadow Loa grows stronger, Jack begins to lose control. He no longer wields the Shadows. They wield him.

Currently, four volumes of the main SHADOWMAN series are available for purchase here. However, Shadowman makes appearances throughout the Valiant Universe, as do the many varied characters from his books. Most recently, Shadowman, Voodoo Witch Punk Mambo, and Ninjak teamed up to battle an Elder God in the RAPTURE Event Series.

4. ARTIFACTS by Ron Marz and Various Artists (including Michael Broussard and Stjepan Seijic)

the Evil Within
Courtesy of Image Comics

I may be biased in including ARTIFACTS by Ron Marz. It is, after all, one of my all-time favorite comic book series. I do have my reasons for comparing the two. ARTIFACTS is a massive event for Image’s Top Cow imprint. Combining the imprint’s most popular characters, including the Darkness, Witchblade, and Magdalena, the creative team create an all-out supernatural war. Thirteen Artifacts were forged at the beginning of time. Alone, each is capable of great destruction or salvation. If brought together, these weapons can end the world. A secret benefactor draws a line, bringing six of the Artifacts to his side. Now, the rest must join forces to stop the inevitable destruction.

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Nearly every character in ARTIFACTS is as much a villain as they are a hero. Jackie Estacado, the wielder of the Darkness, is a great example. His day job consists of murdering people for the mob, and sometimes, he stumbles into doing the right thing. Both sides consider themselves on the right side of this war, but neither can definitively defend their viewpoint. This morally grey landscape mirrors THE EVIL WITHIN in many ways. Every major player believes that they follow the correct path. Ruvik acts to avenge his sister. Corporation MOBIUS seeks to aid the world through its technology but destroys lives in the process. Even Sebastian eventually reveals the failures of his past. No one is clean, and that makes them interesting.

ARTIFACTS has completed its series run with six volumes, with volume 1 available here. Also, if this world interests you, be sure to check out any number of the spin-off or prelude series like THE DARKNESS, BROKEN TRINITY, WITCHBLADE, and MAGDALENA. Though their origins are very nineties, the stories have only grown more complicated as the years have passed.

5. False Positive by Mike Walton

The Evil Within
Courtesy of Mike Walton

For those looking for the true THE EVIL WITHIN experience in comic book form, look no further than FALSE POSITIVE by Mike Walton. This webcomic series takes fans through a TWILIGHT ZONE journey, exploring an anthology of surreal and horrifying stories. Walton’s stories bounce between existentialism, gory slasher horror, and surrealist beauty. It’s a strange series. As an example, the first story, “Concoction,” follows an airline passenger who collected the wrong suitcase from baggage. When he gets to his hotel room, he opens it to find a series of bottled liquids. Looking through the contents, he accidentally breaks one and floats to the ceiling. When his crash landing breaks the rest of the bottles, his body shifts and transforms into an inhuman, monstrous blob.

“Concoction” is only one of the amazing, twisted stories in this collection. While there is no narrative comparison that I can make to THE EVIL WITHIN, the tones are perfect matches. Every story encountered makes you tense up. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Will I find a horrifying monster behind this next door? Or something so strange that I’m left scratching my head for the next hour? THE EVIL WITHIN inspires that tension, which made sense because, through controlling Sebastian, players face real stakes. But I’ve never experienced that simply starting a story before.

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FALSE POSITIVE releases in collections called “seasons,” like a television series, and of the stories so far, it is the only one currently running. Readers can find three seasons available for view, with the last page published on October 7, 2017. So if you are looking for a slew of amazing, creepy stories to read this Halloween, page through FALSE POSITIVE.

Honorable Mention: THE UNSOUND by Cullen Bunn and Jack Cole

The Evil Within
Courtesy of Boom Studios

The second comic from storyteller Cullen Bunn on this list, THE UNSOUND is a relatively new series from Boom! Studios. While mental illness itself shouldn’t be feared, mental institutions (especially those of the mid-18th century) always seem to carry demons. Although, with all the doctoral mistreatment often defining daily life at that time, demons are bound to want to hang out. Though I mean this figuratively, the demons of THE UNSOUND’s Wiermont Psychiatric Hospital are very real. When Ashli begins working at Wiermont, a patient riot drives her into the heart and bowels of the hospital. Here, she finds secret experiments and supernatural events like none she has ever seen before.

Interview: Cullen Bunn, Danny Luckert and Marie Enger Talk REGRESSION

There are several reasons why THE UNSOUND didn’t make it into the full list. The first is simply due to the parallels between this book and THE EVIL WITHIN. The two stories are so similar, with an asylum opening the doors to a horror movie driven by unstable people. I wanted to recommend stories that had the feeling of THE EVIL WITHIN but allowed readers to step past that horror trope. I wanted to give a grander sense of the Halloween season. Also, THE UNSOUND is currently running and there are only four issues available. The first story arc isn’t even complete, and since I am behind on this series, I didn’t feel fully comfortable telling you to dive in headfirst with only hearsay. If what I’ve said intrigues, though, take a chance on this surrealist horror story!

To pick up your own copy of THE UNSOUND #1, click here!

Whether you are playing THE EVIL WITHIN 2 or losing sleep after completing THE EVIL WITHIN, these comic books are perfect for your Halloween season. Take a break and scare yourself a little. If you decide to pick any of these goodies up, let us know down in the comments! 

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