Its that time of year again. The spooks are out, unease fills the air, and monsters hide behind every end cap covered with candy at the supermarket. It’s time for Halloween. And just in time for the greatest of holidays, BOOM! Studios has released one of the most provocative, and evocative, comics of the year. Something Is Killing The Children is a new ongoing series from award winning writer James Tynion IV and artist Werther Dell’Edera. The story centers on the small town of Archer’s Peak where something horrifying is lurking. After a string of gruesome child murders rocks the quaint town, we are introduced to our protagonist, Erica Slaughter, who (as her name fittingly implies) kills monsters professionally. She is tasked with investigating the murders of three local boys. Her only witness is James, a quiet young man run through the wringer over their deaths. As the sole survivor and witness, whose story is outlandish and filled with tales of a monster, James has had the fingers of the town quietly pointed at him as the perpetrator in their deaths. But perhaps Erica can lend a hand, and bring James the answers, and closure, he needs.Stories like this are created to help us empathize with the disenfranchised.
One issue into Something Is Killing The Children, and it’s difficult not to be hooked. The style and visual worldbuilding through the art of Dell’Edera is breathtaking. Each panel is visually haunting, with muted blue and gray hues setting the tension and tone. Each page feels claustrophobic. Even when we get a reprieve and are able to escape the darkness of the night, the daytime feels empty and hopeless. It is as if you can feel a palpable dread in Archer’s Peak. This art, paired with the fantastic writing of Tynion, creates a book that pushes the reader to the edge of their comfort zone. However, it’s not for the faint of heart (or sensitive stomach). There is a degree of gore and horror that many may find uncomfortable, especially since the violence revolves around children. But Tynion and Dell’Edera do not glorify, or wantonly use violence for shock value. Rather it is to show the trauma James and the rest of the town have had to endure since the murders began. It also conveys how important Erica Slaughter’s mission is in Archer’s Peak, to prevent this from ever happening again.
Stories like this are created to help us empathize with the disenfranchised. James, never popular but now an outcast, is believed by no one. Who would believe a kid who watched his friends get massacred, and then blamed it on a fabled monster? It stirs in us a compassion for those who have no one to lean on, no one to find comfort in. Many of us have wrestled with a sense of loneliness and isolation, abandoned by the ones we trust and love most. Our monsters just take a different form. It is not until the kindness of a stranger that James feels empowered enough to fight back and is given a sense of hope and purpose. Sometimes we could all use an Erica Slaughter.