Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #38 by Drew Barth
Dipping Into Horror
It’s October this year, so you know what that means: thirteen months until the next presidential election.
Also, Halloween—the best time of the year as a different kind of horror (finally) can grip our imaginations. From the ghosts, ghouls, and other ghastly creatures that invade the space under our beds to dark, macabre tales of the gothic that creep into our minds, October is the season of the spook. The horror comics of old really advanced what was imaginatively possible with the medium, and there are still a great variety of chilling and creepy comics coming out, like Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera.
Tynion is known for haunting series like UFOlogy and The Woods and Dell’edera for working on The Crow: Memento Mori and House of Mystery. Together, the duo have crafted a first issue that oozes with unease and menace, bolstered further by the beautiful color work of Miquel Muerto.
Something is Killing the Children establishes itself quickly as a series that knows how to ratchet up that menace panel by panel. We begin the first issue with James, a high school kid trying to impress his friends with truth or dare during his first sleepover. He tells them the story about a monster he saw in the woods while home alone—something spooky for a sleepover, because that’s what sleepovers are for—a monster he made up for an entertaining yarn. But somehow the monster was real. On a dare, he sent his friends out into those woods. James then must watch as his friends are eviscerated. From here we cut to an unnamed woman with swords now tasked with slaying this monster.
What makes Something is Killing the Children so tense for a first issue is the immediate tone and pace. If ever there was a master of the page as a stanza idea, it is Werther Dell’edera. Dell’edera knows how our eyes track shape and movement and uses that as a means of ensuring we look where we need to look on the page every time. When we have the flashback of James watching his friends die, it is a large two-page spread that uses longer panels that layer the action in an effortless way. We instinctively follow the line of action until the moment concludes with the monster on the next page.
Coupling the above art with Tynion’s fantastic realism-in-the-face-of-actual-monsters dialog and Muerto’s use of comfortable blue tones for horror sequences turns Something is Killing the Children into one of this year’s strongest comics. Something is Killing the Children knows how to do uncomfortable uneasy horror without having to splash blood in our eyes. The building of tension through its panels, the pitch-perfect small town characters, the dread we feel when we see those blue night tones are perfect to make us squirm.
Get excited. Check under the bed.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.