Something is Killing the Children, but more importantly, someone is killing the somethings. This atmospheric and entertaining small town monster mystery from BOOM! Studios reaches its first compilation with aplomb.
I just want to say that I read this comic in the bath and on a treadmill today and I am very pleased with both life choices and I thoroughly recommend mixing comics with healthy self-care activities in these times.
GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (Justice League, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land), colourist Miquel Muerto, and letterer Andworld Design to create a tangible and evocative middle American town in Archer’s Peak, its denizens and the mysterious strong female character Erica Slaughter (yes really) who’s coming to save them from the monsters they can’t even see.
We start at an adolescent boys’ sleepover where James and his friends play truth or dare and talk about nightmare monsters. Spoiler: there are actual real monsters and some of those adolescent boys don’t last past the first 2 pages. Not long after, survivor James meets Erica who seems to know a surprisingly large amount about the monster who he hasn’t even told the police he saw. He knows they won’t believe him. And she has this big knife, so…
While the story is pretty child-centred, as suggested by the title, this is not a comic for the faint of heart. Sorry that I always reach for TV comparisons rather than comics because I’ve not actually read a lot of mainstream comics, but think Stranger Things levels of monster, American Horror Story levels of gore, and Buffy levels of tongue-in-cheek horror humour (did I mention the talking octopus sock puppet? It’s a thing). Although it doesn’t take long for scenes of graphic mutilation to take place in Archer’s Peak, Tynion IV does not treat his victims lightly. While the comic walks a tonal line between deadly serious and flippant, the pain of the incidental characters feels very real. I thought the world-building in these first five issues was beautifully balanced.
While there’s nothing earth-shatteringly original in the story, there are more than enough strands of intrigue to keep you turning the pages, from the mysterious Slaughter family Erica belongs to, the efforts of the local police, and of the relatives of the missing kids and their already layered stories. The construction of the comic is filmic in the good way, not in the bad way where the artist is racing to keep up with a writer whose mouth writes jump cuts his arse can’t cash but where expressions and scenery tell exactly as much, by showing as they need to. Knowing when to show not tell, and when to tell not show. Just getting the basics bang on that way. These guys know what they’re doing and you will be neither bored nor confused.
Erica Slaughter is obviously the pitch for iconic status here, and I can’t quite go without admitting I was sceptical of an all male team presenting her. She is a sardonic, cartoonishly hot blonde who likes to play with chainsaws but I enjoyed how her hotness was not actually commented on, and she’s not positioned as a lust object. In fact other characters refer to her as having big, creepy eyes, which was quite funny.
You can download a free preview of the comic here: https://www.boom-studios.com/series/something-killing-children/
James Tynion IV (W), Werther Dell’Edera (A), Miquel Muerto (C), Andworld Design (L) • BOOM! Studios, $14.99
Review by Jenny Robins