Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Werther Dell’Edera
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Cover Artists: Werther Dell’Edera with Giovanna Niro
Variant Cover Artists: Jae Lee & June Chung, Jenny Frison, Joseph Schmalke
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Remember those scary stories you would tell your friends at sleepovers and campfires? What would you do if they became reality? That’s what our protagonist James must face in Something is Killing the Children #1.
James’s night starts out innocently enough with a game of truth-or-dare with his friends at a sleepover. James describes a moment when he was most scared — which didn’t happen too long ago and originated in the ravine near his house. Of course, in all their youthful hubris, the boys decide to explore the ravine. That’s when everything goes bad.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Erica Slaughter is hunting down these killers head-on. After receiving a tip, she heads to the small community of Archer’s Peak. There, she meets James and gets the whole story. Turns out, there’s a monster in the woods, and it’s time to go hunting.
There are a handful of good horror comicbooks out there, and Something is Killing the Children #1 makes a strong case for its inclusion with elite horror books just one issue in. James Tynion IV hits all of the right notes in this: the beginning establishes a familiarity with sleepover scary stories while allowing your worst fear to come true; we are almost immediately empathetic to the vulnerability of the shy, bullied teenage protagonist; and he shrouds it all in mystery enough to spur our curiosity while satiating our desire to know more with brief peaks behind the curtain.
He also builds his story on familiar foundations while establishing this as a wholly original tale. The building blocks kind of have a Brothers Grimm meets Are You Afraid of the Dark? meets a Van Helsing-esque monster hunter, and then he adds his personal touches to all of it. Sure, we might be familiar with monster hunters, but Erica Slaughter is unique with her wild-eyed, tucked-in look and her affinity to use children and their wild imaginations as her primary source of information.
Something else that struck me about this is how near-perfect the scene transitions were. I was especially impressed with the transition between the opening scene with the truth-or-dare game to the scene that followed immediately after. You know something happened, but you’re not sure what, so your mind immediately tries to fill in the blanks. And that’s what good horror does a lot of the time; it makes the audience scare themselves first. But as we switch back and forth between James and Erica, the transitions feel like a natural progression of the story rather than an interrupted flow.
Along with the amazing storytelling, the artwork completes the book. Dell’Edera draws the book with that kind of grainy, scratchy feel you might have seen in Gideon Falls, but there’s also a simplicity to it that keeps the details from feeling overwhelming. Muerto’s colors are haunting shades of blue and somber tones that feel overcast — almost like a literal and metaphorical storm is approaching.
Something is Killing the Children #1 has all the right elements of a perfect horror story. You’d be hard-pressed to find any fault with the characters, the premise, the narrative flow, and the artwork. It’s got all the right ingredients to make you scared enough to want more.