Enter 'House of Slaughter' Before It's Too Late
We review the 'Something is Killing the Children' spin-off and anticipate the arrival of the inevitable next one.
Before I even babble on about the comic, it's just awesome to see a title like Something is Killing the Children branch out into its own epic universe. House of Slaughter sorta has that New Mutants energy, a hotly anticipated spin-off promising new perspectives and radically strange extensions on a mythology we already love. As The New Mutants begat X-Factor, which begat Excalibur, which begat - are there any other Marvel comics besides X-Titles? - House of Slaughter #1 feels like it could be the start of a cultural wildfire. There is just so much world to explore within this realm, and if you haven't gotten on board yet, here's another chance to do so.
Original creators James Tynion IV and Werther Dell'Edera pass the keys of the car over to writer Tate Brombal and illustrator Chris Shehan. The transition is almost unnoticeable, and if you're not worried about such things, you could even pretend that the first authors were still piloting. House of Slaughter #1 operates as a crucial flashback/side quest, filling in the mythology while defining Aaron Slaughter's supporting character, made the star here.
I would be curious to hear the thoughts of a reader utterly unfamiliar with Something is Killing the Children. Could they pick up this comic, register the lore and weirdness and move on without confusion, propelled by their curiosity? I'm inclined to say yes. The first issue jumps us right into the action before hitting the breaks and filling out the who, what, and where details. There seems to be enough here to capture a newbie's attention and hopefully send them to their local comic shop for the parental title's trade paperbacks.
We meet Aaron Slaughter as we already know him, a skilled monster hunter tracking his prey. He's putting his thoughts to paper, logging his actions in a manner his mentee Erica too often neglects. As he presses into the deep dark woods, he recalls his earliest experiences, training to become a Black Mask in the House of Slaughter.
Young Aaron is not a badass; he actually kinda sucks, a creature of emotion, fumbling to prove himself amongst the other residents. His betters won't let him forget his weaknesses, but his mentor Jessica fights for his worth. She sees something in him, a warrior ready to explode. And then she rooms Aaron with the new kid, the White Mask Jace Boucher, and the two of them instantly get into all sorts of trouble.
Tate Brombal splits the two timelines effectively, crescendoing into a mighty reveal. The first arc should weave these timelines savagely, using one against the other, crushing our expectations at every turn. Dueling narratives are one of my favorite tricks, and it's an effective method for parsing out bizarre, emotionally complicated backstories.
Chris Shehan stacks his panels like Lego blocks. He's building a house, constructing a sturdy, easily discernible architecture. Such integrity lulls the reader into presumptions, priming them for a shock when borders are broken, and splashes erupt on the page-turn. Like Dell'Edera, his illustrations are richly evocative, which allows Brombal to lay off the emotional exposition. We are given brief windows into Aaron and Jace's past, and while we wait to know the meaning of these rewinds, Shehan immediately makes their emotional impact known. And, of course, this is all underscored by Miquel Muerto's colors, which is probably the main contributing force for tying House of Slaughter's vibe to Something is Killing the Children.
House of Slaughter is an easy sell to anyone already reading the main title. You're in love with that book, and you want more of it, so here you go. Done, you're probably not even bothering with this review. If you've been holding off on Something is Killing the Children for whatever reason, and would like a taste of this universe, then step right into House of Slaughter. It'll give you an idea of what's in store with the other books, and it doesn't really spoil much of the discovery process that they would provide.
With this comic's success, more titles could follow, and I welcome them. I want to live in a world where the Something is Killing the Children mythology is every bit as viable and as pervasive as the X-Men franchise. I want movies. I want cartoons. I want toys. I want breakfast cereals. I want it to be as every bit impenetrable as the mid-aughts X-books. But Tynion probably doesn't. He's not crazy. He's smart. And whatever sequel series we get from here will certainly be as accessible to new readers as House of Slaughter #1.
Quickie Review: House of Slaughter #1 is a compelling, gorgeously constructed expansion. Black Masks, White Masks, evil teachers, evil students. Aaron Slaughter's education promises to reveal a treacherous history, explaining the nightmare world we first met in Something is Killing the Children. It's an easy jumping-on point for new readers and will cause long-time fans to froth at the mouth. 8.5/10
House of Slaughter #1
Story: James Tynion IV & Tate Brombal
Writer: Tate Brombal
Artist: Miquel Muerto
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Letterer: Chris Shehan
On Sale: 10/27
Synopsis: Discover the inner workings of the mysterious House of Slaughter in this new horror series exploring the secret history of the Order that forged Erica Slaughter into the monster hunter she is today, available in October 2021.
You know Aaron Slaughter as Erica’s handler and rival. But before he donned the black mask, Aaron was a teenager training within the House of Slaughter. Surviving within the school is tough enough, but it gets even more complicated when Aaron falls for a mysterious boy destined to be his competition. . .