Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart are all superstars of comics, but “The Twilight Children” #1 is the first time all three have been on a comic together. Reading this issue, you’ll wonder why it’s taken so long. This new miniseries is intriguing and spooky, but — more importantly — it’s impeccably crafted.
“The Twilight Children” #1 ultimately plays to all of its creators’ strengths. Divorced from any of his previous creations, Hernandez’s story feels tight and focused, even as it takes just the right amount of time for an introduction. We meet a handful of characters and Hernandez lingers over them all for just the right amount of time so you understand who they are, but never so long that the plot doesn’t move. The seventh page is where “The Twilight Children” #1 shifts from a small-town drama to something eerie and out of the ordinary, and it actually made me jump a bit even without being threatening, per se. The mysterious sphere’s presence causes an instant tonal shift, and one that works perfectly to unbalance the reader and make everything that much more intriguing.
The kids in “The Twilight Children” #1 work in no small part because Hernandez writes children so well. When the children shift from talking smack about Bundo to running in his direction screaming his name, it feels real because of the casual way in which they’d been denigrating him up until then. It comes across not as malicious but almost second nature, an echoing of what they’ve heard adults say. Similarly, the shifting relationship between Tito, Nikolas and Anton feels startlingly real; you can see the different levels (and types) of affection that exist between them, and — while it would have been easy to simply write this off as a “person X is cheating on Y with Z” story thread — it feels much more emotionally complicated and tangled because of the way we see them react to one another.
Those reactions are in no small part thanks to Cooke, whose pencils and inks are just gorgeous. “The Sandman: Overture” #6 gave us a black and white version of this comic as a preview, and there as well as here just reminds us how good Cooke is. Just look at the bottom of page three, with Tito’s, “Howdy, stranger.” It would have been simple to make this a full-page splash, but instead she’s in that one small panel; however, it’s just as impactful because of the beauty in Cooke’s drawing. From the soft line of her chin to the way her head leans into her hand, it’s incredibly natural and instantly appealing.
From there, everything else is drawn incredibly well. Bundo’s little shack on the beach serves in contrast to the more professionally built buildings in town, for instance, or the graceful nature of the seagulls wheeling over the ocean. Without ever being told in the narration, you instantly understand the size of the town because of the styles Cooke uses to draw the buildings, and he does so in a detailed yet stripped down fashion.
Stewart’s soft and full colors are the icing on the cake. For instance, Tito’s conversation with Nikolas about the buyer’s convention looks amazing in part because of how well she pops against the dark blue night, even as this never feels overly rendered or full of computer gimmicks. Something as simple as the two images of Bundo’s fire pit are each colored very differently, with the intensity of the reds that Stewart uses showing us the passage of time. It’s subtle and never draws attention to itself, but Stewart accentuates Cooke’s work in every single panel.
“The Twilight Children” #1 is an amazing first issue, one that will draw you in and make you eager for the remaining three issues. As part of Vertigo’s big relaunch, it’s not just good — it’s phenomenal. Hernandez, Cooke and Stewart need to collaborate more often; each creator brings out the best in the others. Simply amazing and highly recommended.