While that setup lends itself to a battle of good versus evil, and Snyder and Lemire do certainly follow that model, Rotworld contains plenty of unsettling imagery. Animal Man artists Steve Pugh and Timothy Green II cover the page with twisted arteries and splashes of blood and flesh. Likewise, Swamp Thing artist Yanick Paquette designs flowing panels to replicate the all-encompassing spread of the natural world. Not only does this approach heighten the stakes of the heroes’ fight against a big bad, but it also reveals the limits of the reader’s perception, suggesting that a greater evil exists just beyond our comprehension.
At first glance, DCeased feels like the Distinguished Competition decided to copy Marvel Zombies about a decade too late. Indeed, it does involve the heroes of the DC Universe becoming mindless monsters, not unlike the rage zombies from 28 Days Later (or, thanks to the slash marks across their faces, the edgiest of edgy edgelord comics, Crossed). The good guys and bad guys turn thanks to a modified version of the Anti-Life equation, which Darkseid transmits across Earth’s networks via Cyborg. Before anyone realizes what’s going on, Nightwing’s eating Batman and Aquaman becomes fish food.
But unlike Marvel Zombies, or that company’s other murder-fests such as Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, DCeased quickly becomes about the primary strengths of the DC Universe, the sense of indefatigable hope and generational legacies. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given the involvement of Tom Taylor, who pulled off a similar feat with his adaptation of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Even as the brightest stars in the DC Universe become grotesque monsters, new heroes rise and continue fighting for a better tomorrow.
The Immortal Hulk (2018-2021)
The Hulk has always been a horror character. Arriving just as the Marvel Age began to dawn, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby devoted most of their energy to sci-fi and horror comics, the Hulk combined the look of Frankenstein’s Monster with concepts from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or the Wolf Man (Banner originally only transformed to the Hulk at night). That focus has shifted over the years, but with the 2018 series The Immortal Hulk, writer Al Ewing brought Green Genes back to his horror roots.
Ewing takes the multiple personality approach spearheaded during Peter David’s decade-plus run and ties the gamma bomb to environmental destruction. As the Devil Hulk battles for dominance over the other identities, Leonard Samson, the Red She-Hulk and other characters discover the connection between gamma energy and a primordial, Satanic evil. Taking a cue from Rob Bottin’s effects for John Carpenter’s The Thing, penciller Joe Bennett draws bodies twisting and deforming as they transform, uncovering a new level of terror in the long-running character.
Werewolf by Night #1-4 (2020 – 2021)
As MCU fans now know, Werewolf by Night usually involves Jack Russell, the scion of a family with occult connections who inherits the curse of the wolf man. But for their 2020 miniseries, writers Benjamin Jackendoff and Taboo (yeah, the guy from The Black Eyed Peas…) team with artist Scot Eaton to explore the horrors of America’s southern border. Young Jake Gomez has enough trouble dealing with racist law enforcement officers and vigilantes in his Arizona town, and his sudden transformations seem like a way to protect his family. But as the transformations grow more frequent, Jake discovers that he may be a threat to the ones he loves.