The gripping breakout horror series Something Is Killing the Children has proven to be one of Boom! Studios' strongest series. With a TV show in the works and a spinoff examining the origins of the House of Slaughter, there seems to be no end in sight for this franchise's success. After the tragic yet triumphant ending of the Archer's Peak saga last year, Erica faces an entirely new set of threats in Something Is Killing the Children #22, written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell'Edera, with colors by Miquel Muerto and letters by AndWorld Design.
In Something Is Killing the Children #22, a brutal serial killer is terrorizing another small town. The only witness to the latest killing is a young teenager, Gabrielle, and she refuses to talk. Erica gears up to investigate this new threat, but she has a far worse kind of monster to contend with now. After breaking ties with the House of Slaughter, the Order of St. George is eager to make her pay. Now it's a race against time as the monster hunter becomes the hunted.
After the resounding success of the original arc, where a shadowy monster feeds upon the children of a rural Wisconsin town, it's natural that writer and artist team Tynion and Dell'Edera would want to continue the story. Something Is Killing the Children capitalized on many contemporary horror tropes, emphasizing drama, emotional and physical violence, small-town provinciality, and gratuitous trauma, with a cast of damaged characters ranging from the hardened to the hysterical. The newest arc, following an unseen serial killer and a new rival for Erica, features more of the same, possibly in hopes of similar success.
Dell'Edera's scratchy, impressionistic line art and Muerto's dark, brooding watercolors are strong as ever. The art has not lost its edge from the last arc. Tynion's writing style hasn't changed, either -- if anything, he revisits many of the same beats as the previous arc but turns the emotional intensity up even higher. This makes Something Is Killing the Children #22 more visceral -- and frustrating. Despite a new storyline, it sadly does little to tread new ground.
All the hallmarks are here: a dour, humorless, and acerbic tone and a cast of traumatized characters with nary a kind word for one another. In a strange twist, the younger character Gabrielle is unhelpful and difficult, while the adults, ineffective as they are, are kinder and determined to help her. This is a nice twist on the previous arc, where everyone was at their wit's end but refused to heed the words of the children or Erica. Erica reassures Gabrielle that she will believe her no matter what -- or she tries before she's rebuffed in the most detestable way possible.
While complicated and cruel, grieving characters are par for the course in Something Is Killing the Children. Gabi is particularly frustrating. Trauma notwithstanding, she crosses lines that rob her of sympathy, falsely accusing Erica of being a "pedo," mocking someone's sexuality, and verbally abusing everyone, even, as the previous issue implied, her now-dead family. In contrast to the children of the last arc, who, while complicated and troubled, at least were proactive, Gabi is obstructive and drags the story to a screeching halt. This makes Something Is Killing the Children #22 painfully slow-paced.
The highlight of this issue is the presence of the House of Cutter, who, at the very least, with their pursuit and hunt for Erica, move the story forward and give Erica a clear antagonist to tangle with. The rival faction also paves the way for some character development on Erica's part. Although the premise of a supernatural serial killer is good, the idea of Erica being pitted against a human equal potentially as tough and capable as herself is much more exciting.
Something Is Killing the Children #22 has plenty of potential and no slumps in quality but does little to change things up. However, this is plenty of cause for hope in a series that revels in hopelessness, especially where Erica's new rivals are involved.