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''Walking Dead 7'' and other dark tales

Zombies, the yakuza, and other scary forces figure large in this week’s thrillingly bleak new titles

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”Walking Dead 7” and other dark tales

Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

Four years ago, writer Kirkman (Invincible) debuted this tale of a small-town cop who rallies together fellow humans in wake of a zombie plague. Since then, he’s transformed what should’ve been a hackneyed horror-thriller into a drama about society, morals, and self-preservation. In this installment, our heroes break free from a tyrannical community of fellow survivors, then prepare to welcome a baby into their twisted world. FOR FANS OF… 28 Days Later. DOES IT DELIVER? Though the action ebbs and flows, the book rarely loses focus on its larger design, dissecting the human psyche. New to the title? No problem. Even at its heart of darkness, Dead subscribes to a most contagious discipline of storytelling: the ever-evolving and consistently compelling serial. A-Nisha Gopalan

Edited by Jason Rodriguez

A visit to a Hershey, Penn., antiques store left editor Rodriguez (Elk’s Run) with a handful of postcards and the idea for this collection, in which comics creators extrapolate stories from the one-paragraph correspondences. FOR FANS OF… Found Magazine. DOES IT DELIVER? Most of these stories — based on early-20th-century correspondence — concern themselves, unsurprisingly, with the passage of time and the nostalgia of aging protagonists. Luckily, the comics form is custom-built to smoothly convey temporal shifts and the dreaminess of memory. As with so many anthologies, the quality varies greatly, but any introduction to the work of cartoonists Phil Hester or Tom Beland is something worth writing home about. BSean Howe

Taiyo Matsumoto

Two punk tween orphans (named Black and White, respectively) survive the mean Japanese streets of ”Treasure Town” as it slips toward apocalypse, choked by the hands of destruction-crazed thug-lords called the yakuza. Think of the tykes as the Yin and Yang wonder twins, what with Black’s heavy ”dark night of the soul” moods tempered by White’s happy, simpleton Yoda wisdoms. They need each other. Oh, and they can fly. FOR FANS OF… Manga; action; fantasy. DOES IT DELIVER? Influenced by European comics artists (notably France’s Moebius), Matsumoto’s unparalleled chunky-but-fluid style adds additional thrill to a metaphysical story that’s at once haphazard and tender. A-Michele Romero

Written/illustrated by various artists

Production quotas are more than filled in Nightmare Factory, a set of four stories adapted from the work of cult horror author Thomas Ligotti. This release from Fox Atomic Comics (owned by the movie studio) makes for deliciously bleak reading as its damned protagonists find themselves ensnared in metaphysical traps they often barely comprehend. Opening tale ”Last Feast of Harlequin” is fairly representative of the book’s chilling qualities: Here, a depressed anthropologist attends a small town’s midwinter festival where beating the crap out of clowns actually turns out to be one of the less sinister activities. FOR FANS OF… HP Lovecraft. DOES IT DELIVER? If you like straightforward, meat-and-potatoes horror, you may be put off by the obliqueness of stories such as ”Teatro Grottesco” — featuring a ”nihilistic prose writer” who attempts to contact a secret society, and a gnomic conclusion more likely to provoke head-scratching than haunted nights. But even these yarns pack a fair share of nightmarish moments: Check out ”Teatro” artist Michael Gaydos’ unforgettably pathetic representation of a naked, and inexplicably diminishing, man. Now that’s shrinkage. B+Clark Collis