After a relatively disappointing second volume, Craig Yoe’s Haunted Horror series more than gets back on track with volume three. Gathering obscure stories from largely forgotten horror comics, Haunted Horror: Pre-Code Comics So Good, They’re Scary! does this both by aping the undisputed greatest of horror comics and by hacking out its own unique path. “Fate of Alberto” from Tales of Horror features a bulge-eyed ringer for The Old Witch. Harvested from Horror from the Tomb, and introduced by a host called The Graveyard Keeper, “The Bone Man” is a gruesomely ironic tale worthy of Bill Gaines. Even more on point is the similarly ironic thing-from-the-grave story “Flame Thrower!” from Mysterious Adventures, which features running commentary from a Crypt Keeper clone who refers to us readers as “kiddies” and welcomes us into “The Haunt of Horror”! Perhaps the artwork of such tales isn’t quite up to Jack Davis or Graham Ingels standards, but the writing is good enough to keep you from yelling “rip off!” and IDW’s organic presentation makes these pieces feel more authentic than the digitally bastardized comics Dark Horse is currently peddling in its E.C. Archives series.
There’s a lot of true originality in volume three too, as Vince Napoli’s etched-in-black artwork for “Almost Human” (Beware) is quite unlike anything in E.C.’s archives. In “The Nameless Terror of Twin Dunes”, Bill Fraccio keeps unleashing weird intruders that have nothing to do with the plot through the pages, and it makes a story that is already genuinely creepy even more unsettling. “Death’s Beggar” (Strange Stories from Another World) exploits a wonderfully Halloweeny atmosphere, and “The Uninvited” (Beware) is just straight up bizarre. There’s also a refreshing clawful of sci-fi horror stories that contrast the stock witches, ghouls, and walking corpses nicely. Its sometimes comfortably traditional, sometimes wildly outlandish tales may make Pre-Code Comics So Good, They’re Scary! the best Haunted Horror collection yet. Get it on Amazon.com here: