THIS REVIEW OF ‘SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN’ VOLUME 1 CONTAINS SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Monsters. They could prey on the elderly, never mind the chewy ligaments and lingering tang of iron supplements. Unless they want to be lumped into the category of Bubba Ho-Teps, however, children remain the preferred delicacy. Tender, easily duped, capable of a sporting chase, kids embody innocence as fragile as their physical bodies. A thrill kill two-fer. Also, a great source of protein.
This is the pragmatic, predatorial heartbeat beneath the surface of BOOM! Studios’ Something is Killing the Children. Writer James Tynion IV understands monsters, how kids really act, and how conflicts involving both would be messy affairs not every child survives. Sentiments compressed between these pages echo the Stranger Things handling of teens, tots, and terror minus the nostalgia. Defenders with skill and nerve enough to battle monsters aren’t metahuman innocents like Eleven. These abandoned their illusions beside shattered victims long ago.
This first volume also carries a Buffy aura. One updated, where the Slayer abandons Sunnydale, travels to infernal hotspots, loses her Scoobies, and still takes orders from bureaucratic authorities who aren’t telling her everything. This protagonist also receives messages from a toy octopus. It may sound darling, but the Buffy humor and charm are replaced by more realistic mindsets.
Archer’s Peak, Wisconsin, has a problem lurking in the woods. Children have died. Others remain missing. Law enforcement is on it. They have theories, likely suspects, all wrong. It’s not their fault; they’re unused to dealing with inhuman monsters. The cost in lives increases until someone with supernatural wherewithal applies insight and acts. Someone serious.
Erica Slaughter’s serious but busy bringing a bloody curtain down on similar happenings in another town. The credits haven’t even rolled when she’s routed to Archer’s Peak. Tynion’s protagonist isn’t tired because of the short turnaround. She’s bone-weary from the ongoing battle.
If you know soldiers or emergency services workers, you’ll recognize Erica’s hypervigilant demeanor. Tynion captures the archetype brilliantly, believably. Hypervigilance serves as a way of recognizing and assessing threats, acting preemptively to lessen them, parsing anything that distracts. It makes relaxing difficult, keeps emotions muted, and invokes the capacity to listen rather than share.
Such a state evolves through serious trauma, like boot camp or the never-popular battlefield baptism where safety is not guaranteed. Good news is you react before most norms blink. Cut to the heart of the difficulty. Overcome through manipulation or force. Suffer fools poorly. Get through crises that would overwhelm most people. Live.
Bad news: The longer this is maintained the more exhausting it becomes. Causes compartmentalization, eradication of relationships. Alienates you from others. Enhances feelings of victimization, your situation costing connections most people cherish. Unchecked and depending on the individual, it leads to PTSD, antisocial tendencies, suicidal thoughts.
Tynion uses all this in establishing Erica as a proficient monster hunter. She and the oft-maligned Abyss had a staring contest once upon. Neither blinked. Buffy’s the Slayer we want. Cool. Funny. Coping with help from her friends. Erica’s the Slayer more likely. Sullen. Pushy. Alone and hanging by a thread.
Her maximum overdrive leads to deft scenes as Erica encounters suspicious members of Archer’s Peak constabulary, meets a young survivor with guilt issues, and deals with the grieving brother of a victim. With Erica, Tynion’s use of show-don’t-tell sets the tempo and increases suspense while granting the narrative a slow, deliberate build to confronted nightmares.
It invests us as a parent voices the shattering loss of his son. The heart-wrenching disappointment on recognizing the youth’s potential, never to be fulfilled. It allows Erica’s police interrogation to pivot, placing authority on the defensive so quickly, so certainly, it leaves officer and reader jolted.
Tynion and artist Werther Dell’Edera harness powerful characterization to the pacing it invokes, and therein this mystery/horror turns exceptional. Their tale takes unhurried Jason Voorhees strides, no rush. Erica’s git is a close match, because veterans know frenzied charges under pressure are a recipe for heavy casualties.
Those craving horror gory and splattered should appreciate the visuals. Not every scene ends with evisceration, though emotional impacts of both action and interlude are intense. Dell’Edera creates a striking Invisible World, one coexisting alongside ours. Beyond the perceptions of most characters, when it is revealed, the denizens rival anything in the Upside Down. Colorist Miquel Muerto conjures a literal and aesthetic sense of perpetual overcast to hug this story like a fitted shroud.
If you seek a serious, engaging horror tale, the first volume of Something is Killing the Children succeeds in every way that matters. It pulls you in, sets its claws, provides an intimidating guide, then drops you onto her battlefield. And it’s only Act One. We want to see Erica’s left eye. We want to know the secret of the stuffed toys. We want to learn what happens when monster hunters prevail, but the threat worsens anyway.
BOOM! Studios / $14.99
Written by James Tynion IV.
Art by Werther Dell’Edera.
Colors by Miquel Muerto.
Letters by Andworld Design.
8.5 out of 10
‘Something is Killing the Children’ Vol. 1 is available now.
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Read our interview with James Tynion IV converning ‘Something is Killing the Children’ here.
Check out this 11-page preview (!!!) of ‘Something is Killing the Children’ Vol. 1, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!