Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera
BOOM! Studios (May 2020)
128 pages, $13.41 paperback; $12.74 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Something has been taking the children of Archer’s Peak. At first it was just one girl, and the police assumed it was a typical family kidnapping perpetrated by an uncle. But then, young James and his friends have a sleepover, and when it’s over, James is the only survivor. There are bodies and blood. The whole town is in chaos. Then, a stranger with an uncanny knowledge of things who talks to her stuffed-animal octopus arrives and says she’ll take care of things. Something is Killing the Children is a really strong series from writer James Tynion IV and artist Werther Dell’Edera.
What makes this graphic novel potent is that Tynion’s writing really focuses on limited point-of-view. This is not unusual, but still quite an accomplishment in graphic novel formats. This limited point-of-view is enhanced by Dell’Edera’s artwork. There are lots of extreme close-ups in the frames, as well as some interesting color palette choices that really hone the reader’s attention on the key characters in the scene. This limited knowledge serves to heighten the horror.
Tynion and Dell’Edera also use the comic book format well. This is a collection of five limited-edition comic books which work as chapters in the graphic novel format, and it’s clear that they’re extremely proficient in that medium. The pacing across the page and the huge, full-page, cliffhanger endings at the end of many of the chapters are really well done. Readers will be caught in the shift of color and scope when then get to the last page of many chapters, and this slight shock to the system serves to enhance the potency of the fear in the graphic novel.
However, what is clearly a strength can also be a weakness. There are some sections in the graphic novel that are clearly intended as two-page layouts and meant to be read across both pages. In a comic book, I would imagine that these are the middle two pages and it would be clear to the reader that they’re meant to be read as such. In the graphic novel format, they aren’t as obvious, and there are times when the reader will have to recognize that the panels are meant to be read across both pages instead of individually. This makes for a pause in the otherwise effortless flow of the book, but after the third or fourth time, readers are prepared for it.
Something is Killing the Children is not an original plot, to be sure. It’s a typical monster plot with a few twists. What Tynion and Dell’Edera do to make it unique is focus less on the monster itself and more on how the small, Midwestern town reacts to the killings and the unknown. There is a psychological aspect to the horror here, where children can see the monster and know it’s real, but adults can’t, and therefore want to fall back on normal excuses, like wild animal attacks or murderous people. When they can’t make the evidence fit those narratives, they become less rational and more instinctual, and Tynion and Dell’Edera really use this to good effect, magnifying the fear in the population and forcing the reader to experience it as well. This is a really strong opening graphic novel, and I can’t wait to read the sequels.