There have been some consistently good (volume one, volume three) and less consistently good (volume two) installments of the Haunted Horror series. The latest volume of IDW’s anthologies of second-tier horror comics is one of the mixed bags. These stories not published in top-line comics such as Eerie and E.C.’s triad of terror tomes tend to be best when they are at their wackiest, and there are definitely a few in Haunted Horror: Candles for the Undead and Much More! that suggest their authors and artists were snacking on psilocybin fungi between panels. “Prey for the Vampire” takes a very novel approach to the most venerable of monsters and oozes uproariously dumb dialogue (“”Pramevi…vampire! I get it---even you name is an anagram of vampire!”), fab art, and a genuinely clever plot. An army of tiny people rescues “The Locked Door” from being just another killer-artist tale. Winning maximum points for surrealism is “The Witches Come at Midnight!”, its art exploding with fabulous imagination, its plot hinging on how a rooster defeats Satan.
Not everything manages such absurdity or invention. “Midnight Limited!” is as predictable as these kinds of stories get and its dumbass protagonist, who somehow doesn’t realize the ticket taker on his train is a skeleton, smacks of laziness rather than inspired lunacy. “Hand of Fate” hits rock bottom with a rote story, schlocky art, misspellings, and a panel the colorist apparently forgot to work on. In the case of The Monster’s Ghost”, the hallucinatory baloney that makes the best stories so much fun collapses into complete gobbledygook with a goofy bull monster, hammy dialogue (“Feed on life and death! Feed and gorge!”), and a nonsensical plot that ends with its antagonist doomed to forever roam with a ghost knife stabbed through his chest. Actually, that description may make it sound better than it is.
Inconsistent Candles for the Undead may be, but it remains impressive that the Haunted Horror crew is still unearthing some genuinely mind-melting comics from the oddball pile and presenting them with deliciously authentic images in a lovingly assembled package.