Short story anthologies are as prevalent in horror as ghosts or vampires. Most often gathered under a theme, the stories in anthologies can often be gateways to the works of multiple authors, giving readers a chance to discover their next favorite read. Even as an anthology combines a multitude of different voices, the stories in truly great anthologies somehow fit together, each individual tale creating something greater than the sum of its parts. Sadly, anthologies in graphic novels, particularly horror graphic novels, aren’t as well-known. Razorblades the Horror Magazine: Book One, created by writers James Tynion IV and Steve Foxe, looks ready to change that.
What Razorblades contains in this omnibus is not just graphic fiction, but a multitude of textual fiction, as well as interviews with such luminaries in the genre as writer Scott Snyder and artist Gou Tanabe. Some consider the books by EC Comics like “Tales from the Crypt” to be the template for a collection of gruesome stories in comic book format, featuring twists of irony and ads for voodoo dolls and X-ray specs, but many of the graphic stories in Razorblades break the mold by invoking a different kind of horror.
Many of these stories are what some might call flash fiction, a story that doesn’t spend a lot of time setting up characters and exposition but uses the few pages allotted to deliver a visceral sucker punch of a story climax. Get to the end of many of these stories, like Marguerite Bennet and Werther Dell’edera’s story “Local Heroes,” and the horror will slowly dawn on readers, that last puzzle piece fitting into place will open the trap door beneath the reader’s stomach. Plus, the interviews and solid textual pieces incorporated intermittently will create just enough variety to keep the reader engaged.
What will really draw eyeballs, however, is the artwork that is used for these stories. Relying on a multitude of art styles, from disturbing photorealism to almost cartoonish-looking minimalism, the art never becomes comically inappropriate in tone, but it is definitely for mature audiences. Even the standalone works that aren’t connected to any stories, like Jerome Tiunayan’s “Morning Routine,” tell their own little terrifying tales. The book is ultimately a showcase of the talent that is working in the horror comic industry, both writers and artists.
Thinking of this anthology as a showcase of talent is the hook that might get this book in librarian’s adult graphic novel collections. Its length of nearly 400 pages might seem initially daunting, but this collection, like many anthologies, are designed to be ingested in bite-sized bloody chunks. Many of the authors and artists featured here have had their work printed elsewhere; for patrons with the inclination, this could launch several pitch-black rabbit holes discovering the totality of a creator’s work. Razorblades, a book that shows the potential of horror in graphic storytelling, is definitely a book that belongs in libraries with a strong horror graphic novel fan base.
Razorblades the Horror Magazine: Book One
By James Tynion IV, et al.
Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)