A Year of Free Comics: ELENA offers gruesome imagery alongside a layered plot

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There are many types of horror. From supernatural ghost stories to bloody slasher tales, the term horror covers a spectrum of intense stories meant to scare and disturb. In some cases, like Jorge Jaramillo’s Elena, the story makes you requisitely uncomfortable while delivering complicated characters who aren’t creepy just to be creepy. They are who they are for a reason.

The lead character, Carl, is obviously someone you don’t want to meet on a dark road. Even before you discover what he’s hiding in his house, he does not give off a warm and fuzzy vibe. Yet this doesn’t stop his nosy neighbor from trying to find out what his secret is. Once you see what Carl is doing in his home, you are more than uncomfortable, and you wonder how someone can become so depraved.

The great part of Jaramillo’s tale is that you eventually do learn why every character does what they do, even the most villainous and frightening ones. Their backgrounds are complicated and in some cases painfully tragic. It doesn’t excuse their questionable deeds, but you can draw a direct path from their beginnings to their current monstrous state.

Elena is graphic, and there are plot points that may be triggering, or at the very least, they will make you incredibly sad. According to the creator, he based his idea on an actual news story, which makes it even more disturbing since some of the details occurred in real life.

Jaramillo, himself, is a filmmaker and animator as well as a comic artist. His background shows in how cinematic his panels are, which helps set the mood of the story to capture the eerie tone of the piece.

If you like your horror comics intense and complicated, Elena is a top choice. The complete series, which began in 2015, is available for free on Webtoon.


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