The climax of a multiple volume-long arc can be the bane of an ongoing comic series. It can see characters unravel, the momentum grind to a pitiable slog, the worldbuilding collapse under its own weight. More than a few ongoing series with vast amounts of potential meet this fate. I recall a promising creator-driven series I only discovered last year coming to lose the engaging voice that made it special, coming to a close that left next to no impression to me. Thinking back to it, I can’t even remember anything about its final issues, whereas the opening still burns bright in my mind. It’s only the greatest shame when that happens.
Imagine how happy I am that Something is Killing the Children closes out its third volume with a bang. No, this is the closing of a lengthy arc done right: all the elements that James Tynion IV has worked into this fictional world come together to deliver a memorable end to the tragedy in Archer’s Peak. Erika Slaughter comes face to face not only with growing baby monsters but a sibling branch of Slaughters, showcasing the tensions within the organization as well as its cut-throat nature.
Characters are not safe in Killing the Children. Characters. Are. Not. Safe. It isn’t just death they have to worry about, either; it’s a dangerous world they inhabit, and it demands a willingness to make all kinds of sacrifices that your sense of justice might have trouble with–but the humanity of some of these actions, they are . Horror doesn’t have to only frighten; it’s at its best when it shows both the depths we can pitch into and the heights we can climb, the self-sacrifices made to save others. One or two of the memorable character arcs across this comic pertains to just such a pure act of humanity.
The whole volume wraps up with a conversation between Erica and the Dragon of the House of Slaughter. Revolving around the methods employed by the organization versus those Erika believes should be used, it is an intense sit-down which forces both the reader and Erica to question. Whose argument has the right of it? Erica’s choices come from a place of compassion–yet it is all too easy to see how that very compassion allowed the crisis at end to spill way out of bounds. The House of Slaughter’s methods are callous, entirely heartless, and dismiss any considerations for human life. But there is something to be said about the protocols they’ve put in place, protocols meant to avoid the very situation that has come to pass over these three volumes. It is a brilliant, bitter scene, one that pits a utilitarian question about the greater good against common humanity.
It is not an easy finale to stomach; an injust one, in many ways, and bitter–but oh-so-well written, so very satisfying. With Erica inclined to change things up, I can’t wait to see where the open road takes her–and whether this is the last we’ve seen of some rather less fortunate characters.
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