Something is Killing the Children Volumes 1-3 (2020-2021)
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Werther Dell’Edera
When it was first published, Something is Killing the Children was a five-issue limited series. However, the reader response was so overwhelmingly positive that instead of doing a series of mini-series, writer James Tynion IV was allowed to make it an ongoing by Image Comics. Like many series at Image Comics, especially since The Walking Dead became a show, this one feels like an extended pitch for the first season of a television program. It’s a rather contained setting with a limited number of recurring characters and lots of seeds for potential mysteries and subplots along the way. But is it any good?
The town of Archer’s Peak has become the site of multiple missing children. All of this escalates when James and his friends have a sleepover and end up wandering through the woods behind the house. Something attacks and kills all but James, who has no fundamental understanding of what happened. Around this time, a woman named Erica arrives in town wearing a strange mask bandana, wielding some powerful weapons and has knowledge of what’s going on. More kids go missing, and Erica quickly realizes things are worse than she realized. She communicates with a strange cabal but shirks their orders as she tries to save Archer’s Peak from a deep ancient evil.
This is not a series that intends to rush its plot or character development. Tynion seems to be in this for the long haul and is revealing small bits at a time. He sees characters are more important than just mindless violence and monsters. Three volumes in, and we have clearly only scratched the surface of Erica and the people she is working for. However, Tynion doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to violence. This is a comic that has multiple children getting straight-up murdered, eaten, and torn apart. I wouldn’t say it’s ever portrayed in graphic detail, but there’s no doubting what is happening to the kids who end up in the lair of the monster at the core of the story.
I think this series is pretty poignant regarding the current situation laid out before us on the world stage. Things are bad, people are dying, no one in authority seems to have the will to do what is necessary to solve the problems because that will disrupt the balance of inequity. This results in kids existing in this quicksand of hopelessness. The future is no longer something to be excited about but to be feared, anxiety growing as you imagine what a world with ever-depleting resources would look like. Archer’s Peak’s children live this out on a smaller scale, surrounded by adults who cannot do anything to protect or maybe aren’t willing to. The teenagers we see in the book seem detached from
It should be noted that the author of the comic and primary child survivor share a first name, and I wonder what is going on with that. In Tynion’s DC Black Label mini-series The Nice House on the Lake, his setting is Wisconsin, where he grew up, so inserting autobiographical elements is undoubtedly a part of his writing. This leads me to wonder how much of his own trauma and past is being filtered into this metaphor of growing up in highly uncertain times. A quiet sadness permeates Something is Killing the Children that is just as powerful as its moments of shocking violence.
Mundanity has its own kind of evil. School gymnasiums and sit-down casual restaurants are standard settings in the book, and they feel slightly off. However, James saw the world one way before that sleepover, and by the next day, everything is filtered through new lenses. Erica appears to be the hero Archer’s Peak needs, but she eventually brings some dangerous people to town who are more interested in containing & killing the monster, even if that means using the townsfolk as bait. I’m curious to see where Tynion takes this story and where these characters ultimately end up.