With the comics industry continuing to battle the effects of the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are continuing to talk about comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This week, we revisit a recent horror series that’s already an instant classic.
James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto, and Andworld Design began Something Is Killing The Children in late 2019. The series was one of the earliest books to return post-pandemic, quickly moving into its second arc. It’s a deeper exploration of the world that the creative team built in volume one, while keeping the immediate scope of the story small.
Erica Slaughter killed the monster that was murdering the children in Archer’s Peak, Wisconsin. However, as a colleague and rival arrives in town to clean up after her, she has no time to deal with him. The monster she killed was unique. She was a mother… and her brood is still out there. And they’re very hungry.
Tony Thornley: About this time last year the two of us talked about the first volume of Something Is Killing The Children. It was actually the first one that we both went into largely blind, as the series had come highly recommended, but neither of us had checked it out yet. I read it quickly to make sure I wanted to talk about it, then threw it into the queue the moment I finished the first volume.
If I remember right, neither of us loved the first issue or two, but as Tynion and Dell’Edera built their story over the course of those five issues that made up that collection, they got their hooks in us. It was definitely one of those that we said we wanted to revisit later.
So, now it’s later. And damn.
Brendan Allen: Things really pick up in the second act, don’t they?
TT: I really liked this volume, but yeah, the pacing is BRISK. Do not pick this one up thinking that this will be a slow build like the first volume. The team put their cards on the table in the last few pages of the first volume, then in this arc, they threw the reader into a muscle car, and hit the gas before they could get their seatbelt on. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?!)
It’s a great set-up- Erica is trying to figure out how to hunt the creature’s children as Aaron Slaughter- her colleague, rival, and maybe a family member (it’s not really clear)- arrives to take the case away from her. However, the duo have to team up with the local law enforcement to try to stop things from getting worse.
Now Tynion didn’t really get too deep into Aaron or the House of Slaughter here. However, I liked his introduction, as the story remains very small scale. Including him allows Tynion to do some world building while keeping focus on the shadow monsters hunting the children of Archer’s Peak.
BA: I know that the fourth arc kicked off with SIKTC #16, which just dropped last week, and Tynion is using that storyline to throw this thing back to Erica’s origin. There’s also a House of Slaughter comic slated for Free Comic Book Day 2021. So, it was interesting seeing the setup here in the second arc for the stuff I’m seeing teased in previews in the current arc.
TT: Oh definitely. There’s a lot of very cool stuff here, both in the forefront and in the background. This doesn’t feel like one of those creator owned books that they say it ongoing, but it’s actually three arcs and out. This is a layered world that I could see Tynion, Dell’Edera and team continue for years.
Speaking of, Dell’Edera and Muerto’s work together continues to be stunning. The way the characters move across the page tell a story as much as the script does. You can look at Erica and Aaron, look at the differences in how they dress, how they react to each other and the other characters, even how they fight… You know there’s story there to tell and I can’t wait to see it (despite Aaron’s fate in the last few pages). It did take me a little while to get into the design of the monsters but man, as soon as I got it, they were scary.
BA: It’s really interesting. The monsters aren’t heavily defined or overworked. They look like they’re literally composed of shadows and teeth. Sometimes I feel like monster design gets in the way of the story. Like, you try to do something super creepy and imaginative, and it ends up just being silly and killing the vibe. Not here. Kids are getting ripped to shreds by darkness. Darkness with teeth.
And some of the scariest moments come when the things are attacking, and none of the adults can even see them.
TT: Oh you mean that handful of absolutely horrifying half-page panels in the last issue? Especially the one that made me gasp out loud?
BA: That’s probably the one.
TT: Dammit this is good stuff. I’m being very careful to avoid spoilers as much as possible because this is probably the book we’ve talked about in the last year that benefits the most from the reader knowing very little going in.
I really liked the pacing of this. It was very much like the second act of a horror movie that had already done all the footwork to set everything up, so it did not need to stop. I felt like where the last volume took place over about a week, these five issues barely covered twenty-four hours. That means you, as the reader, do not get a moment to catch your breath, especially as the collection reaches its horrifying climax. I liked that a ton.
BA: Exactly that. The pacing is balls to the wall from the first sequence, and then the thing blows off with a horrifying cliffhanger. And again, one of the hardest hitting sequences in the story so far, the shot pulls way back, showing the horror, without really showing it. There’s absolutely no mistaking what’s happening, but it just isn’t necessary to get right in the middle of it. It’s so much more powerful.
TT: Oh yeah, that moment, Tynion just steps back and lets his art team do their thing. It’s probably the least detailed panel in the book, but also the most frightening moment in the entire series so far. A great use of minimalism by Dell’Edera and Muerto.
Coming out of this volume, I think we’re both asking why this series isn’t being talked about more. It’s just incredibly good, scary stuff. And the crazy thing is, this is one of two, soon to be three, really really good horror series currently running from Tynion. We seriously need to talk about Department of Truth soon.
So we both liked this thing again, right?
BA: It’s very good. Tynion clearly mapped out several arcs well in advance, and it shows in the continuity. I’m enjoying the volumes as we’ve pulled them in. This is really good horror. You should go ahead and queue up volume three when it drops. I’m in.
TT: It’s out a week from Wednesday, so we’ll have to talk about it before summer’s over. What do you have for us up next?
BA: We’re going to pick up the second arc in BOOM! Studios’ hillbilly secessionist murder mystery, Grass Kings, by Matt Kindt and Los Jenkins (Tyler and Hilary).
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