As a kid, I was terrified of monsters. I was convinced there was a monster in my closet; I had nightmares about monsters, and I did not want to watch anything that had monsters in it. When I got older, I discovered there were people who hated monsters as much as me: monster hunters. I enjoyed reading and watching things about monster hunters because they went out and fought what I was afraid of. My love of monster hunters is what made me so excited to read the comic, Something is Killing the Children. The comic introduces a new and interesting monster hunter and the monster she fights is terrifying and brutal.
Something is Killing the Children is a BOOM! Studios comic written by James Tynion IV with art by Werther Dell’Edera. The story is set in the small town of Archer’s Peak. It is a town where not a lot of crime happened, until children started to go missing and were found murdered. A high school student, James, is the only person to survive an attack. He knows a monster is killing the children, but he doesn’t know who to tell. Enter Erica Slaughter. Erica is a monster hunter who works for a mysterious organization, and she carries around a stuffed octopus that can talk to her. Erica comes to town to kill the monster that is attacking and killing the children.
Something I like in horror stories is strong, competent characters. I don’t like horror characters who are only there to run around, scream, and then be killed by the villain of the story. This comic has many fascinating characters, and one of them is James. The book opens with James trying to describe the horrible night when all of his friends were killed in front of him by a monster. Dell’Edera’s art shows how devastating this event has been for James. His eyes are drawn with tears streaming down and falling in big drops. James is not a character who holds his emotions in. If he is upset, he wears his feelings on his sleeve. James is a character who many readers will be able to relate to because he doesn’t fit in. The town doesn’t trust him because they fear he may have killed his friends; the kids at school blame him for his friends’ deaths, and he is sometimes judged for being gay. James has a lot to deal with, but what I admire about him as a character is how determined he is to figure out what happened to his friends. He could easily turn his back on this town, but he stays and tries to fight the monster that is attacking children.
James is also an interesting character because the comic lets you get to know who his friends were. They aren’t nameless victims who get ripped apart in a brutal, bloody way by a monster. You see how James interacted with his friends; they were friends that clearly got along, but also weren’t afraid to hit each other in the face with a pillow. James does have an unrequited crush on one of his friends, which is heartbreaking. Letting the audience get to know James’s friends makes you care that they died, and you understand James’s pain.
Erica Slaughter has quickly become one of my favorite monster hunters. I loved her the second she was introduced—walking out of the forest covered in blood and holding two swords. This image drew me in, and I instantly wanted to know more about her. Erica has many of the traits I love in a monster hunter. She is an intelligent fighter. She does not rush into a fight with a monster. She asks questions and she makes plans before she monster hunts. Obviously, there are times when a monster attack happens randomly and she has to respond, but I like that she prefers doing research before a fight. I also appreciate that Erica is a monster hunter who cares about the people she is trying to protect. She can sometimes be blunt with them, and she will fight those that get in her way, but she also understands that people are confused and scared. Erica is also not invincible. She does have amazing fighting skills, but she still gets hurt. Erica gets knocked down and seriously hurt a few times during the comic, but she always gets back up because there are people she needs to protect.
James and Erica are interesting characters by themselves, but the relationship between them is one of my favorite aspects of the comic. James and Erica meet when she comes to Archer’s Peak and she asks him questions about what happened the night his friends died. It is clear from their first meeting that Erica is someone James can talk to. With everyone else James must censor his story and not mention the monster he saw, but with Erica he can be completely honest. The relationship between these two is not always easy; they don’t always say or do the right things, but their relationship does show how important it is to have someone to talk to when you have been through something traumatic.
James and Erica are both interesting characters to read about, but this comic is also a great read because the monsters are terrifying. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, I have seen my fair share of monsters, but this comic features the most brutal monsters I have ever seen. The monsters do not just kill their victims, they rip them into bloody pieces. This would be disturbing if the victims were adults, but it is even more disturbing because the monsters specifically kill children. Dell’Edera’s design of the monsters will haunt your nightmares, but you also won’t be able to put the comic down until Erica defeats them and Archer’s Peak is safe.
Something is Killing the Children is one of the best comics I have ever read. It is not always an easy comic to read because you do see several children get killed and you see the grief their families feel. But it also tells a beautiful story about dealing with trauma, facing your fears, and protecting those you care about. It is a comic full of memorable characters who have arcs that will draw readers in and make them want to keep reading. The story of James, Erica, and the community of Archer’s Peak is a comic worth reading, but you might want to keep the lights on.
For more reviews of YA comics, check out Kinsey's previous article!