Review – Are You Afraid of Darkseid #1: Halloween Hauntings

Comic Books DC This Week
Are You Afraid of Darkseid? #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Are You Afraid of Darkseid? #1 – Elliott Kalan, Kenny Porter, Calvin Kasulke, Dave Wielgosz, Collin Kelly/Jackson Lanzing, Ed Brisson, Terry Blas, Jeremy Haun, Writers; Mike Norton, Max Dunbar, Rob Guillory, Pablo M. Collar, Jesus Hervas, Christopher Mitten, Garry Brown, Tony Akins/Moritat, Artists; Allen Passalaqua, Luis Guerrero, Wil Quintana, Eva De La Cruz, Tony Avina, Marissa Louise, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: It’s time for the annual DC Halloween anthology, which has had a strange history. Some installments were brilliant, others struggled to find the right balance between DC heroes and horror. Themed around traditional campfire scary stories, it kicks off with a short segment focusing on the Teen Titans as they tell each other scary stories, and these segments continue through the book. The team of Elliott Kalan and Mike Norton has a good voice for the Titans, especially master-of-ceremonies Damian Wayne, but how do the seven campfire tales shake out in this anthology?

Credits. Via DC Comics.

Emiko’s story is “Bloody Mary” by Kenny Porter and Max Dunbar. Spinning out of the old-school legend of the mirror ghost, it’s a wildly unlikely team-up between Harley Quinn and… Darkseid? When three idiot teens break into a hotel to hung the iconic ghost, they encounter Harley on the same hunt, and Darkseid on the track of an ancient Apokaliptan assassin. This reinvention of Bloody Mary not as a ghost but as a tormented Apokaliptan experiment is clever and somehow makes her even scarier, and the banter is oddly fun. Clever cliffhanger ending that makes perfect sense, too.

Bloody Mary. Via DC Comics.

Next up is Damian’s story—“Backseat Killer” by Calvin Kasulke and indie sensation Rob Guillory. Batman is on the trail of the Mad Hatter on a lonely country road, but when the villain disappears, a far bigger threat emerges—a seemingly mad truck driver who stalks the Batmobile as if it was possessed. This doesn’t really seem like a horror story, more like an action one as Batman deploys his weapons and snarks at Alfred over the intercom. But the story has a clever twist ending or two that perfectly fits the feel of a campfire scary story.

Space-girl Crush has a fitting story in “Escape the Dark Fortress” by Dave Wielgosz and Pablo M. Collar. It takes us back to the mythology built by Alan Moore and later Geoff Johns, as John Stewart explores a twisted legacy of the Empire of Tears. A twisted living fortress with a dark purpose lures John in and fills his mind with illusions of his past in order to get him to stay there forever, but the Lantern’s will is stronger than the powerful being. The art is a bit spotty in places, especially in the faces of the Lanterns, but the story is clever and compelling.

Wallace West has a more ambitious story in mind, with “The Endless Staircase” by Lanzing and Kelly and Jesus Hervas. And this is something completely different—less a true scary story than a mood piece. About ten individual stories each revealing how the Phantom Stranger takes people up the staircase to… somewhere. Or nowhere at all. Some are significant people, like the man who created a weapon that would have changed the course of the world. Others are ordinary people who got too close to magic. And some were pawns in significant pieces of the future who could not be allowed to meet a natural end. Each page is deeply haunting, some are strange and vague, others are powerfully direct. And it all comes together beautifully.

Jackson Hyde, naturally, as a story of the deep. “Aquaman and Aqualad vs. the Ogopogo,” by Ed Brisson and Tony Avina is a classic kaiju story spinning out of the legendary Canadian cryptid. The Ogopogo has been a harmless legend for a long time, but when the creature starts attacking tourists, the two heroes have to head into the deep to take it on. This isn’t really a scary story—it fits well with the tone of past Aquaman stories—but it has some nice creepy monsters and great battle sequences. Perfect for cryptid fans.

Emiko gets another turn with the flashlight, and “Black-Eyed Kids” by Terry Blas and Garry Brown is a creepy Wonder Woman-Vixen team-up. An African village is being plagued by a mysterious band of dark-eyed children demanding to come inside people’s houses and seemingly absorbing their energy. The two heroines investigate, and discover a bizarre conspiracy that has easily the wildest twist of any story in this anthology. Not really a scary story, aside from a few creepy visuals, but a clever tale of magic with a clever last act.

Finally, Roundhouse delivers his story in “The Cellar” by Jeremy Haun and Tony Akins. This Superman/Lois Lane tale finds them returning to Kansas on the trail of two missing girls. Their search takes them to a farmhouse holding a dark secret, and the story unfolds like some combination of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “The Thing.” It’s much darker than the average Superman story, but it’s great to see Superman and Lois work together in an unusual situation and the creature-feature effects are nicely creepy.

After one last brief Teen Titans segment and a jump scare, it’s a wrap. Overall, with one exception none of these stories are brilliant, but they all feel like a good fit for the genre of scary stories to tell in the dark.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!