James Tynion IV, especially in regards to his past creator-owned titles, is no stranger to writing horror comics. Previously, Tynion wrote a trilogy of apocalyptic horror miniseries for BOOM! Studios, partnering with artist Eryk Donovan, detailing three different kinds of extinction-level threats endangering the human race. For his latest BOOM! Studios series, Something Is Killing the Children, Tynion teams up with artist Werther Dell'Edera to craft a much more intimate, personal horror story. While narrowing the scope, the creative team has maintained the terror and tension which is immediately apparent early into its debut issue.
The new series opens with a group of friends hanging out over sleepover as one boy details a particularly ominous story from his past. Late night scary stories quickly devolves into something disturbing as the comic more than lives up to its title as the small town in which they live is rocked by a series of gruesome child murders that shows no signs of slowing down. And as the boy behind the story falls into focus with the string of killings, a mysterious teenager arrives in town with her own bloody agenda.
Tynion has always grounded even his more expansive horror stories on relatable leads caught in the center of the action but this opening issue feels especially focused this time around. The other notable difference in Tynion's approach this time around is that is centered more around trauma than the cause of the child killings itself. Yes, there is terrifying, gory action in the issue itself and blood runs in bountiful supply by the end of the inaugural issue with the killer still on the loose but Tynion's pacing appears inspired by Stephen King's IT, meditating on the immediate after-effects of horror as the trauma permeates across the community.
As such, while the overall story moves as a deliberate pace, Tynion is sure to keep enough of a mounting sense of dread and tension pulsating under the surface to keep things interesting and moving along. With five issues of real estate rather than his previous horror miniseries running at three issues apiece, Tynion takes advantage of the breathing room whereas his previous stories had usually hit the ground running. And in sharing first names with the book's protagonist, Tynion may have tipped that this may be his most personal story yet as the stakes are firmly established and the main characters introduced to take on the sinister threat.
The small town horror is beautifully rendered by Werther Dell'Edera, joined by colorist Miquel Muerto. The art team's work here evokes an '80s autumnal horror setting like the haunted small town Americana seen in the Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street film franchises; sleepy towns gripped in the throes of unworldly terrors as the nights grow longer and the trees more skeletal than lushly verdant. Matching the atmospheric setting is the art team's character work, the faces broken and haunted by something unspeakable hunting the town's children with relentless ferocity.
Something Is Killing the Children takes its time to set up the scares, and its opening issue is more interested in exploring the consequences of an inexplicable serial killer on the loose rather than the actual act. That said, Tynion and Dell'Edera have perfectly paced their debut issue to know when to unleash the terror that have left such an indelibly traumatic mark on the story's characters. Drawing inspiration from the horror classics of decades past, it's clear the new series comes from a personal place as it features a more meditative horror that Tynion's previous works in the genre. In doing so, Tynion and Dell'Edera have crafted the perfect horror comic for the Stranger Things era, evocative of a nostalgic time period without being beholden to it.