James Tynion IV is one of those comic book writers I’ve wanted to dig into for some time now, especially with the increasing number of accolades his BOOM! Studios series, Something Is Killing the Children, has received over the last two years. It’s selling like hot cakes, it keeps cropping up in conversations and on twitter threads about what’s hottest–so naturally it has taken me over two years to get to it. Talk about commitment! But I’ve done it, I’ve read the first volume, and I have thoughts!
Killing the Children (yes, that’s how I’ll be shortening it) stands at a crossroads, choosing to embrace not one but several genres. Horror is the most obvious one, the one to hold primacy. This is obvious throughout–from the title itself, to its typeface (boldly sprawled at odds and ends across two pages every issue, setting the tone in exactly the right way), to the truly gruesome and disturbing imagery of eviscerated children. Psychological horror bleeds from the pages in-between these grisly displays, Tynion’s dialogue and Werther Dell’Edera’s art capturing perfectly the tension of every local, whether child, parent, school principal, or sheriff. Their town is under siege, after all, and by an invisible, untraceable killer. What is anyone to do?
Enter Erica Slaughter. Erica has come to town on business, the kind that made me think about Supernatural‘s monster-hunting Winchester brothers. She, too, moves from town to town leaving a trail of destruction in her wake, a woman with the most intense gaze you’ll meet.
Her drive to find and slaughter (couldn’t resist) the Something in the title is almost elemental, and her nonchalant cool-headedness is something I came to rely on as I spent more time with her. To see it broken across a few occasions is a powerful, effective way of showing the reader that the stakes are getting higher and higher.
I’m crazy about Erica–she’s an absolute badass, and deadly in her competence. She’s not the only character I enjoyed following; there’s a plush octopus that looks real sus, an older brother of a missing girl whose understandable pain and fury push him towards an ill-advised course of action, and a kid that survived the first in a series of slaughters that turned the town of Archer’s Peak into a bloodbath. I’m still struggling to learn their names. That’s not a reflection of–wait, the kid’s name came to me! James! How could I forget a mainstay in such a signature panel as this?
Tynion IV has received the Eisner Award for best writer two years in a row–if he continues to deliver scripts as strong as the ones at display in this first volume, I suspect he will, at the very least, be nominated in the category for years to come.
I mentioned the comic book is on a crossroads between genres; there’s no small amount of action, a bit of detective work, no small amount of mystery, though I suspect these will yet develop further. There is a hint of the Americana, too–the small town, the eternal small-town diner, the sheriff; I hope to see these elements continue to grow into the story. Archer’s Peak has captured my imagination and I cannot wait to return to it.