Here’s a list of dark magic graphic novels for when you just want something to creep you out. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)
I originally posted this list in 2015, but it’s been refreshed and expanded in 2023 after I re-read most of the books here to make sure I was still enthusiastic about recommending them. However, please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.
Four volumes in and I’m still adoring this horror / sci-fi / magic series about a Black family who owns a farm that grows plug-and-play human organs. If you’re in the mood for something off the wall, but with suspense AND creepiness AND emotional layers about parents and children, give Farmhand a try.
“Jedidiah Jenkins is a simple farmer. But his cash crop isn’t corn or soy. He grows fast-healing, highly-customizable human organs. For years, Jed’s organic transplants have brought healing to many, but deep in the soil of the Jenkins Family Farm something sinister has taken root. Today this dark seed will begin to sprout, and the Jenkins family will be the first to taste its bitter fruit.”
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. 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 second storyline collected here, 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 the first Hexed story. When everything goes sideways, though, they’re more than capable of showing Lucifer’s grief and fury. And all the eviscerated corpses, because, you know, this is Hexed and things like that happen.
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. In Hickman’s version of reality, successful financial institutions are run by families who’ve made intergenerational deals with… something. 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.
I definitely see how the end of Volume 2 IS an ending, but honestly I wish Hickman had kept going because I think it there was plenty of potential for more if he’d so chosen, especially after all that worldbuilding! Good creepy stuff, lots of cool visual design, very enjoyable.
I picked this off the library shelf because of Jill Thompson’s name. She’s well-loved by us for her own kids’ series Magic Trixie and Scary Godmother. 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.
There are three followup Beasts of Burden books, and I… have gotten a little frustrated with the series, honestly.
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, with some colors by Bill Crabtree and some illustrations by Tyler Crook. Lettering by Hurtt, Douglas E. Sherwood, and Crank! (Amazon / Goodreads)
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.
The main character, Elena Abbott, is a bi black woman journalist in 1972 Detroit who also fights the occult forces of evil. Was there a chance I’d skip reading this graphic novel? No. And while I thought the villain was maybe a tiny smidge too cheesy, overall I enjoyed this a lot.
“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.”
“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.”
If you have anxiety around teeth falling out (I know people who do!) then maybe give this a miss. If not, and you’re cool with a very loose plot, give this one a chance. The artwork is fantastic.
“After inheriting a farmhouse, Trudy and Gabby are ready to start the next chapter of their lives together…except it’s already home to a mysterious force that’s attracted ghosts, aliens, and all kinds of supernatural beings for decades. Now, Gabby and Trudy must play by the ‘house rules’ in order to survive living amongst the most frightening creatures on Earth…”
Interracial sapphic couple moves to a haunted farm & fights murder ghosts? Yes! So glad this is a series starter! Kyle Starks goes more grim and gory here than in his books I’ve previously loved (Kill Them All and The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton) but the plot is so preposterously over-the-top and Topilin’s art is cartoony enough that I’m rolling with it. Given the events near the end of this collection that foreshadow a whole different kind of bad to come, I’m already impatient for the next volume.
And that’s the list!