New To You Comics: Monsters Hit Small Town America In ‘Something Is Killing The Children’ Vol.1

by Tony Thornley

With the comics industry slowly returning from the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to 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 visit a superhero writer’s recent dark monster horror series!

Something Is Killing The Children may seem like a wordy title, but it’s an elevator pitch just as much as a title. Late in 2019, James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, Miquel Muerto, and Andworld Design launched this series with a provocative title and fascinating premise. It was a unique horror title in Boom! Studioslineup.

In Archer’s Peak, Wisconsin, children have begun to go missing, some brutally murdered, some simply vanished. So far only one person has survived, and he doubts the horrors he saw. The town’s only hope is a mysterious masked young woman, and the mysteries of her knowledge and experience.

Tony Thornley: So this is a bit of a reverse, me introducing you to a horror book. However, as soon as I finished reading this first trade, I knew we’d need to talk about this. When I first heard about this series, I had no idea what to expect. It was just this image of Erica Slaughter, one of our leads, and the synopsis.

However, man did I dig it. We get a little small town drama, some coming of age story, a lot of monster horror, and a pinch of supernatural conspiracy. It’s a jam-packed book. What did you think?

Brendan Allen: You know, this one actually took a minute for me to warm up to. I wasn’t a huge fan by the end of the first chapter. Sitting here, I knew they were about to show the monster, and I hated that they were about to show the monster, and then they big fat did it anyway. I had to step away for a minute. It got better further in, and by the end of the arc I was on board. 

TT: It kind of took a minute to figure itself out, for sure. I think the point I was in though was when Erica and James, the survivor, confronted the brother of one of the missing kids. It was a bit of character drama that Tynion does REALLY well (you’re going to see it soon when we visit one of his cape comics), and it showed me this wasn’t going to be a run of the mill scary story.

BA: Sure. That came around in the second chapter. Erica Slaughter is a great character. That interaction with her and the cop at the station is golden. With her paper, non-laminated ID that she made at Kinko’s. The kid’s pretty badass, too. James? Like, he’s already seen some shit. You’d have a hard time shocking him into bailing on the mission. 

TT: Erica is absolutely fantastic, for sure. She was absolutely my favorite part of the story. James was a fascinating secondary protagonist though. Here’s this young teenager, he’s trying to figure stuff out, particularly with his sexuality, and then somehow he survives this attack, and his entire world changes.

BA: I mean, watching all your friends getting devoured alive will kinda do that, right?

TT: Absolutely. And that scene… Dell’Edera was a complete unknown to me before I read this. I think literally the first I know I’d seen his work was the teaser with Erica. But he gets the character drama and the mundane feel of small town life down. And then Erica shows up, with her huge eyes (a great design touch) and that terrifying mask, and the horror feels real.

BA: Huge EYE. Do we ever see the left eye?

TT: You know, we do, but I don’t think it’s ever in a clear straightforward shot. It’s an interesting touch there, that lock of blonde hair always at least partially obscuring that eye. It’s a great example of the thoughtfulness of his designs. But then we get the horror of the attack…

BA: I liked the art quite a bit. That was actually what kept me reading past that early monster reveal. It reminded me of, like, an 80s horror flick on VHS. That kind of grainy, menacing, dark imagery. 

TT: Agreed. It’s extremely expressive. It’s a little bit cartoony, while maintaining a sinister quality to it. Muerto’s colors are a big part of that too, with a lot of washed out greys and blues that make the reds and oranges of the most shocking moments jump off the page. It’s a gorgeous read.

And in all of this, we haven’t even talked about the conspiracy/secret society subplot, which I think was one of the most interesting things about it. If this story had been it, I probably would have been satisfied, but Tynion and Dell’Edera did just enough world building to hook me for the second volume. The final reveal of the monster, the society that funds Erica, and more mystery… 

BA: There is that. It’s a little but Ghost Fleet/Babyteeth. If I recall correctly, it’s the same underground secret society in both, using high tech, assassins, and questionable tactics to hunt down monsters and baddies.

I appreciate that they didn’t lead with that. The first chapter was a great place to start, if only they hadn’t SHOWN THE MONSTER. If this had been just another case for the team or whatever, I don’t think I would have been so invested. That reveal was actually paced out pretty well for me. 

TT: Oh for sure. And that pacing helped reveal that this monster wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill monster of the week for Erica. It also gave us some fascinating tidbits about her throughout, such as her supernatural companion, which we never get any answers about.

BA: Right. The weird little sidekick is brilliant. I liked the way they wrapped up this first arc, too. Very on brand for that eighties horror feel. Cinches it up reasonably, but clearly leaves the door wide open for the next arc (the sequel).

TT: Oh definitely, it had a great arc-ending reveal that had me hooked. I wonder how long Tynion has planned. Will this series wrap with the story of Archer’s Peak, or will it expand into the entire world he clearly has mapped out. I guess we’ll see. So, final verdict?

BA: Like I said, it didn’t immediately grab me, but once I was a couple chapters in, it felt a lot more natural. It’s got some fun little twists, and it’s genuinely scary. Glad I stuck it out. 

TT: Yeah, I really look forward to what’s next with it. I’m hooked. What’s up next in your queue?

BA: We’re jumping into one of Donny Cates’ earlier works that he did with Geoff Shaw, God Country. It’s full of heart, action, giant talking swords, Kirby Gods, magic tornadoes, and family drama.

TT: And we’re going to do something kind of fun this time, and immediately follow THAT up with the next book Cates and Shaw did together, Thanos Wins!

Something Is Killing The Children Volume 1 from Boom! Studios is available in print and digitally from your favorite retailer.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.

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