New To You Comics #127: On The Butcher’s Block In ‘House Of Slaughter’ V1

by Tony Thornley

Everyone has different tastes in comics. Here at New To You Comics, we explore that as Tony and Tom dive into comics that, well, it’s right there in the column title. We look at a spin-off of a massive horror hit.

Something Is Killing The Children is one of the biggest hits of the last decade, telling an intimate horror story within a larger universe. It was only natural for James Tynion IV to expand that universe. In House of Slaughter, he not only did so but brought others in to play in his sandbox. House of Slaughter expanded the world with Tate Brombal, Chris Shehan, Miquel Muerto, and Andworld Design, with designs from main SIKTC artist Werther Dell’Edera.

Aaron Slaughter is on the trail of a traitor, one of their own who caused the deaths of many within the House of Slaughter, but also his first love. What he finds is the young man he once loved, a new purpose in life, and perhaps a way out. Will he take it or will he be forced to kill the man he loves?

Tony Thornley: Tom, thanks for dealing with my short real-life inspired hiatus. What a book to come back to! You and I are both fans of the main SIKTC series. Tynion’s creepy monster hunting series has been a highlight of creator owned comics of the past few years. I was excited to pick this book up, but I was surprised by this. SIKTC is a horror story, without a doubt.

This was a horror romance, and I dug that. What did you think?

Tom Smithyman: Glad you are back in the saddle, Tony!

So this is an interesting one for me, because I adore SIKTC. I think it’s a great ongoing horror story – with the exception of some of the last few issues that felt like bloat. Tynion has created an amazing universe. Which brings us to House of Slaughter. I bought the first issue but was so underwhelmed – maybe it was the feeling of overextending the franchise – that I didn’t pick up another issue until now. 

This arc definitely brought the romance, which is not something the franchise has seen to date in any real way. That’s something different and probably needed. That said, the boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back was fairly predictable.

Tony: Yeah, I think you’re right. The interpersonal plot was pretty tropey, but I think there was a few surprises in other places. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite as strong as the core series.

So I’m not sure what the separation of writing duties is, but if I had to guess, Tynion gave Brombal a very loose plot or outline and let Brombal go from there. Brombal is credited with the script but both are credited with the story. This doesn’t feel much like Tynion’s writing, with a stronger sense of character over plot. And that makes this worthwhile.

Brombal, I think, is a strong character arc writer. He’s able to take Aaron and Jace, and show them immediately as fully formed characters, and then help them develop over two different timelines.

Tom: I suspect you’re right about the writing duties. I would imagine the pair did a lot of brainstorming together, then Brombal was on his own for the actual words. It’s not always the easiest way to write, and it could possibly lead to some hurt feelings. Still, if the duo trusts each other – and I think Tynion has earned a ton of trust in the industry – it should work out well.

The thing that struck me on the division of responsibilities was that it wasn’t all that long ago that Tynion was taking the same approach – only as the junior writer – with people like Scott Snyder. Tynion is an accomplished writer who has come a long way in a pretty short time.

What did you think of the artwork?

Tony: I was passingly familiar with Shehan before this, but I think the art was a major highlight of the arc. His characters have a lot of charisma- Aaron was really engaging the moment he showed up. The linework drew the eyes right to him, and Muerto’s colors made sure you were paying attention. Muerto earns his keep on Aaron’s glowing eyes alone.

Tom: I’m with you on the eyes. I think a lot of it has to do with Muerto’s colors, which draws the readers’ eyes to the subjects’.

Tony: This story is full of flashbacks, and one thing Shehan does so well is distinguish the eras while making it clear these are the same two characters. Both Aaron and Jace are distinctly younger, and that’s conveyed in more than just slight height differences and haircuts. Both carry themselves differently, they’ve put on muscle, there are differences in their faces that come with age. They’re clearly the same people, but you can see how the years have changed them.

Tom: I agree. In fact, I found the switching back and forth in time on the double-page spreads to be very easy to understand. In lesser hands, it could have been a nightmare figuring out who said what when. The creative team made it simple for the reader and added a lot to these characters’ ongoing story as a result. 

Tony: The storytelling is really great in here too. Shehan lays out the action across the page to give the characters a sense of motion, while Brombal’s script builds the tension between the two characters. Muerto’s colors add emphasis in some panels, draw the eye in others, and are constantly setting tone. It’s a very technically proficient comic, especially for a story from a relatively young creative team.

Tom: Right. And again, being able to jump back and forth in time – showcasing the arguments and conversations the pair had in the past – brings a lot to the story.

Tony: So generally speaking, I liked it. I think it’s got a strong character arc, a few surprises, even with a plot that’s a little cliched or predictable. The art is really great too. What did you think?

Tom: It’s tough to compare anything to SIKTC. Ultimately, it’s really not a fair comparison because the stories are very different. But human nature being what it is, we can’t help but to compare and contrast. It’s a nice appetizer, but ultimately, I’m here for the main course, which is Erica Slaughter and the monsters she’s hunting.

So Tony, now that you’re back, what are you and Scott teeing up for next time?

Tony: Marvel’s smallest hero is getting a movie this week, so we’re going to look at one of Marvel’s recent Ant-Man stories, World Hive, by Zeb Wells and Dylan Burnett!

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