- July 21, 2021
Something is Killing the Children Series Review
Minor Spoilers for Something is Killing the Children, Volumes 1-3, Issues #1-15
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Werther Dell’edera
Colored by: Miquel Muerto
Lettered by: Andworld Design
You can read the title of this series, Something is Killing the Children, and understand real quick that this isn’t going to be a joyful ride. I’m not a big fan of horror/thriller books, or horror stories in general, but I wanted to branch out with this one.
James Tynion IV really grabbed me with his Justice League Dark run. With his interpretation of magic, the DC Universe became legitimately terrifying. Here, he has done something that evolves from his work on JLD. Here, he takes an old trope to its most disturbing conclusion.
There is a monster in Archer’s Peak, and only the children can see it. Thing is, children are it’s food source.
Something is Bringing the Catharsis
The creative team captures the human hopelessness that would pervade a town when its children are being slaughtered and no one can explain why. It’s what would happen after a horrific car accident or serial killer swept through a small town. This book does more to hollow you out and make you connect with even no name characters on the most basic level of emotion.
I’ve felt more for the washed-up, milk-toast Tommy than I have a lot of superheroes I’ve read. The hopelessness of having your little sister go missing when kids are being found torn to shreds, is soul-crushing. The weight behind the bags of his eyes makes my heart sink, and the way he thoughtlessly tells his mother to keep hope sounds like a conversation I’ve had a thousand times.
The art is at its best when it captures the empty faces of every adult with a child they know is dead. When the series deals with the cops who find the bodies emptiness becomes not only the theme, but the setting as they tell the parents.
This is not a series for the faint of heart, and I honestly don’t mean that because of the horror aspects of the story.
Something is Killing the Horror
That being said, maybe I’m misunderstanding what kind of series this is supposed to be, because it never feels scary.
Maybe I’m missing the point of horror/thriller comics, but once I saw the monster, it was hard to unnerve me again. No creature or image unnerves me as much as Tynion’s earlier creation for DC, the Upside-down Man. You can show the monster without it losing its ability to induce terror.
Later, in volume 2, there’s something deeply unsettling about seeing children torn apart by monsters invisible to our eyes. I mean this in a good way, because it should be unsettling, but I feel like it should have been horror-inducing too. Am I just jaded? Maybe I’m just jaded.
For me, this is where the series comes into one of its first real issues. The art style honestly makes the protagonist more frightening than the actual monsters. The monster, that eventually leads to more monsters, is not that terrifying or unsettling.
It looks like a black shadow-bug with limbs less grotesque than real bugs. This makes me think that art style may not have been the best choice for this story. On one hand, the art sets the tone and the mood of every human character impeccably well.
Clearly, I’m conflicted on it.
This series made a mistake showing the monster so early. I know I said you can show the monster and keep the fear, but with this art style and monster design, this monster would have been better off left unseen.
Someone is Killing the Children
This book’s protagonist, Erica Slaughter, is the best. With her, is where the creative team’s greatest strengths coalescence. When Erica first steps out of the woods wearing a bandana with teeth, she scared me more than any of the monsters.
She’s both human and inhuman. Her large eyes and her vacant stare make it appear as if she never blinks. At the same time, she’s the only one able to emote feelings beyond anger, disgust, and apathy.
Then the creative team matches the energy of the art with her dialogue. Erica is both a manipulator, detective, and somehow someone who gives a damn.
While I could go on with how accurately and honestly the creatives capture young kids coming to terms with themselves and the horrors around them, Erica is where they do their best.
It feels like every word she says tells you how she’s feeling. We know she’s frustrated in her introduction by the way she both lashes out and somehow doesn’t. She responds to criticisms somehow both maturely and immaturely.
There’s something special that the creative team has with Erica Slaughter. I always feel like I know where her head is at, despite the fact that she rarely explains herself. It’s not that she’s lying, she’s the most brutally honest person in the seris, but she’s honest in such a way that she feels both honest and dishonest.
There are so many times where she convinces someone that they don’t want to know the truth. She is telling the truth, but at the same time she’s avoiding their questions. At that same time, she never feels like she’s taking advantage or manipulating the people around her. Yet, if you put 90% of her actions and words on blank paper, she’s definitely manipulating people. She’s a complicated character, and difficult to explain with words.
I’ll be honest, I don’t completely understand Erica, and I don’t think I could dissect her without completely spoiling the story.
From the moment you read the first words out of her mouth, you know that this book’s protagonist is something special.
Read Something is Killing the Children
There are a lot of reasons to read this book. It isn’t the typical run-of-the-mill superhero comic. At the same time, it doesn’t work that well as a horror or thriller.
But its an impeccably written and drawn story, that faltered big time in introducing its main conceit, but thrives anyway.
This book is a conundrum to me that can only be deciphered by reading more. I can only recommend it.
Something is Killing the Children, but you should be dying to read it.
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