— More graphic novels were added to this post in March 2019. Happy reading! —
Here’s a list of recommended dark magic graphic novels when you just want something to creep you out. Some of these I had previously recommended in my graphic novels about magic post (which was recently updated), but I’m pulling them over into this new list so they don’t scare the other books!
Before we jump in:
- All comics here can be bought as graphic novels/collections, not only as single issues. Your library may own many of these!
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- If you need to know whether a book has certain content that would make it a bad fit for you, I’m happy to check!
I thought this graphic novel about a teen mom giving birth to the Antichrist might be too cheesy for me, but it’s so satisfying! It has all the secret occult societies, blood-drinking babies, mysterious assassins, and demon squirrel-dog things you could want, but it also has an amazing heart. Teen mom Sadie’s story-framing narration is so well-written, her antihero sister kicks ass, and their fiercely loyal dad is my new fave comics parent. Their commitment and devotion to baby Clark in the face of seriously weird life events is emotionally compelling. Brown and Englert are slinging some dark, powerful art here, perfect for the story’s tone.
There are two volumes of Babyteeth out so far, and it’s an ongoing series. Can’t wait to keep reading.
AND its sequel series in three volumes, Hexed: The Harlot and the Thief (Amazon/Comixology) By Michael Alan Nelson. Art by Dan Mora. Colors by Gabriel Cassata. Letters by Ed Dukeshire.
I weep for the cover of the first Hexed book. I weep again that they felt compelled to repeat the cover art as chapter breaks. If you can ignore that, you should, because there are two strong, wonderful female characters inside that have nothing to do with this art. (Occupational hazard of being a comics fan, the covers don’t always match the interior.)
Luci Jenifer Inacio Das Neves, Lucifer for short, is a reformed thief. Val Brisendine is a gallery owner who also deals with magical artifacts, Lucifer’s sometimes boss, and the closest thing to family that Lucifer has. When Lucifer’s past catches up to her and threatens Val’s life, Lucifer has no choice but to tangle with a dark magical world that already owns too big a piece of her. This book made me fall in love with Emma Rios as an artist. Her people are real and interesting and flawed and distinctive. (Does Lucifer end up in her underwear once? Yes. But it’s not sexy time. And it doesn’t look like that cover.) Between the art and Nelson’s storytelling, it’s a magic / horror / found family tale that’s often heavy with regret, but also sparks with hope.
I was worried about the artist switch for The Harlot and the Thief, but Dan Mora and Gabriel Cassata did great. Lucifer starts with a crisp, clean look that goes with her slightly sassier personality, all totally appropriate given the weight that got taken off her shoulders at the end of Hexed. When everything goes sideways, though, they’re more than capable of showing Lucifer’s grief and fury. And all the flayed and eviscerated corpses, because, you know, this is Hexed and things like that happen.
Love this series, but kinda hope there isn’t any more, because I like to think of this as Lucifer’s happily ever after, meaning she doesn’t have to keep messing with demons and demigods and whatnot.
Diversity note: Lucifer is Brazilian.
Jonathan Hickman is all about the complex conspiracies, and here he brings that sensibility to the world of high finance and pacts with dark magic. The first time I read Volume 1, I was lukewarm, but I think that was overwhelm. Because the second time I read it, I was really into it, and the second volume just made things creepier and more interesting. In Hickman’s version of reality, successful financial institutions are run by families who’ve made intergenerational deals with the devil. When a member of one of these families is found ritually murdered, Theo Dumas – a detective who’s always suspected there was more to reality – ends up with the case and decides he wants real answers. It’s compelling and spooky, and I’m kinda cranky I have to wait to find out who’s going to win any of the various battles of wills and demons underway here.
Diversity note: Rus Wooton is disabled.
Appropriately ominous start to a series that blends police procedural with witchcraft and GORGEOUS art by Nicola Scott.
Police detective and witch Rowan White usually does a reasonable job keeping her magickal life separate from her job. But when a hostage-taking criminal asks to talk to her, then tries to burn her as a witch after speaking her true name, she suspects things are about to get complicated. Her next murder case isn’t reassuring, as it involves ritual elements that fuel her suspicions an old enemy is active again.
This volume does a great job setting up everything we need to get for a compelling story: the basics of the magic system (implied, not given as an infodump thank goodness), interesting secondary characters, a mysterious organization secretly investigating the recent events without Rowan’s knowledge, and a hint of concern from Rowan’s partner detective (and friend) that I suspect will only get more pronounced as Rowan’s forced to keep more secrets.
The first collected volume, published in spring 2016, collects issues 1-5. Through November 2017, only 4 more issues have been published, so clearly there’s going to be a long wait between collections for this title. Rucka’s an accomplished storyteller who specializes in great female leads, and Scott’s such am amazing artist, I’m willing to wait as long as I need to.
I picked this off the library shelf because of Jill Thompson’s name. She’s well-loved by us for The Little Endless series and her own series Magic Trixie and Scary Godmother (see my kids’ comics post for those). I’m so glad it caught my eye! It’s fantastic. Five neighborhood dogs and one cat summon a “Wise Dog” to help a friend in trouble: a dog whose doghouse is haunted. After this first encounter with the supernatural, the six friends become a sort of paranormal detective group under loose supervision by the Wise Dogs. They battle witches and investigate disappearances tied to spooky dark magic and evil forces. They make terrible, soul-crushing mistakes, but they also save lives. It’s more emotional than I would have thought possible from a comic book about animals. Both the storytelling and the art are some of the best I’ve ever seen.
The Sixth Gun (Amazon/Comixology / Goodreads) By Cullen Bunn. Illustrated by Brian Hurtt. Some colors by Bill Crabtree. Some illustrations by Tyler Crook. Some lettering by Hurtt, some by Douglas E. Sherwood, some by Crank!
A gripping, epic, and (finally!) complete series that mashes up post Civil War chaos, dark magic, and the possible end of the world. It centers around six otherworldly guns, each with a supernatural and fairly evil power, and the battle between various factions to possess them. I can’t recommend this highly enough. The worldbuilding and mythology are tremendous. The plot drips with a heavy sense of dread, with the main protagonists fighting against a doom that seems inevitable. Those characters are so real, and I loved them so much that I just about cried when bad things happened to them, even when it was their own fault (grr, human frailty sucks!) or I saw it coming (grr, fate sucks!).
We started reading this series in the giant hardback Deluxe Editions and it was SO satisfying, because you get a giant helping of plot in each book. Unfortunately, only four of these are out so far, covering up through issue 41, leaving 42-50 for a fifth book. (The fourth Deluxe Edition includes one of the spinoff / side story collections to make page count, but I tried two of the four spinoffs in paperback and didn’t care for them.) I recommend reading big helpings of this at once, but you can either start with the Deluxe Editions until you have to jump to the smaller paperback collections if Deluxe Edition 5 isn’t out yet, or just read the whole thing in paperback. See what your library has! SAFETY TIP: At least one of the Deluxe Editions has an intro by another creator that assumes you’ve read the series already and includes spoilers. If you are anti-spoiler, don’t read the introductions!
A young adult comic that’s compelling enough for adults. Or at least the adults in this house, who bought all seven full color hardbacks even though they could have read them from the library.
It begins when young Courtney goes to live with her uncle, a wizard, after her daffy parents finally run out of the ability to pretend they have lots of money. Turns out Courtney has some magical gifts of her own, and her uncle may be a much needed emotional connection for Courtney… or just another heartbreak.
These books are dark. Very, very dark. Murder, painful losses, social isolation, and at least one quasi-suicide attempt by a child. So why do I love them? Because (a) those things can make good fiction, and (b) Courtney’s character has a fully developed, unique, interesting personality and a desire for justice that I empathize with. She’s growing up in a world where allies are few and dangers are many, and she has power that she doesn’t yet know how to manage. She takes the initiative when there’s a problem, though sometimes that doesn’t turn out as the right thing to do.
The magic here is creepy as hell, the art is ominous and otherworldy when appropriate, and the consequences for mistakes are appropriately weighty. Definitely track down the color version if you can, but if you can’t, the story is clearly just as good in black and white.
Outcast is already fairly well known in comics, especially because it went to television, but here’s my two cents in case you haven’t tried it out. Five volumes are collected so far, and I’m sometimes frustrated by the slow pace, but overall it’s a solid, creepy tale about the struggle against demonic possession in a small American town. The writing first volume is sometimes clunky, but main character Kyle is a great tormented hero grounded in love for his ex-wife and daughter. Azaceta and Breitweiser together have created a dark, moody world where details are still clear and stand out. There’s an atmosphere of tense foreboding even during the most “normal” scenes. I’ve been satisfied as each new piece of the puzzle drops in, so I’m interested to see what happens next.
Diversity note: Rus Wooton is disabled.
I’m putting this at the end, because I don’t love this cover, the interior art is inconsistent, and the writing can be a little heavy-handed, BUT I am loving the plot and worldbuilding here so hard. Project Kerberos, a private organization, has developed technology to send teams into one of the thousands of different Hells, shards of the original Hell, and retrieve souls from possessed bodies so they can be put back in once the demons are kicked out. Our story focuses on Orpheus Team, a group of men and one woman, and their adventure trying to extract one soul… leading to team leader Jenner something disturbing about his employer. Meanwhile, Father Gabriel Lloyd, Kerberos’s exorcist, is asking his superiors questions that no one seems willing to answer.
I’m not going to say much more because spoilers, but if this sounds intriguing, it’s well worth picking up from your local library, or trying out the first issue digitally to see if it’s your thing.
Diversity note: I’m pretty sure Nadia and Joseph, 1/3 of the team, are supposed to be people of color. I’m also pretty sure that Nadia is queer.
I haven’t had time to write reviews of these, but I adore them just as much. One of them may be a perfect fit for you! (Blurbs may be condensed.)
“While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite. In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy. One woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.”
“Special Agents Shaw and McGregor handle the routine cases nowadays, which is just the way Shaw likes it. She’s pushing 40, a borderline burnout, the ghastly memories of her last investigation still clinging like shadows. McGregor is younger, more dedicated, hanging onto some measure of idealism whatever the world might throw at him. When two fellow agents go missing inside a Long Beach warehouse, Shaw and McGregor are sent to investigate. But what they find waiting is far from routine, as the local police have already discovered to their cost. Before the night is out, our heroes will encounter terror beyond their most appalling nightmares—in a place where the night may never end at all. A new kind of horror story for modern America.”
“Mila is a solitary teenager ready to put another boring summer vacation behind her until she meets Agnes, an adventurous girl who turns out to be a ghost. And not just a regular ghost, but one carrying the essence of an ancient fallen king and a mouth full of teeth that used to be his guardian warriors. A wondrous world of secret places and dreamlike magic hidden in the everyday corners of our sleeping imagination.”
That concludes this roundup of creepy, dark magical comics that I love and recommend! If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing this post on social media or with friends.