In Review: Black-Eyed Kids #1

Things could completely turn around next issue, but looked at on its own this is shrug inducing reading.

The covers: Four covers to haunt your collection once your find them, or they find you. The Regular cover is by Francesco Francavilla. It shows a young boy and girl, standing side by side. They’re wearing brown sweaters and their eyes are a solid black. The background behind them is a burnt orange, giving this cover an apocalyptic feel. This cover has a very 1960’s Village of the Damned feel. Eerie, more so than creepy. The first Variant cover is by Michael Gaydos  and it’s more creepy because the angle of the artwork implies that the character is looking in a mirror. When a character looks in a mirror to see if their visage has horrific, it’s always a creepy moment. That seems to be what’s going on in this cover, which is colored with blues, whites, and blacks. The next Variant is the same as Regular cover, featuring Francavilla’s art, though it’s in black and white. Because of the lack of colors, it achieves the same creepy feel as the Gaydos cover. The final Variant cover is by Szymon Kurdranski and it’s the one to get. This has an individual raising their hand up, in a relaxed or dying manner, with his or her index finger in blood. On the wall before the character a bloody drawing has been created of a person with bloody eyes. Creepy, eerie, and horrific. Limited coloring makes this a screamer. Overall grades: Regular B, Variant Gaydos A, Variant Francavilla A, and Variant Kurdranski A+

The story: “The Coming Storm” by Joe Pruett is exactly that: an introduction to a situation. That situation is left unanswered by this opening, which creates some seemingly random situations tied together by children with black eyes. The book opens with three teenage boys walking down a street at night during a mild snowfall. A dog barks at the trio and after being stared at by one of the boys, the dogs falls to the ground dead. The story then moves to a home where a daughter screams for her mother because her brother is in her room. A typical problem among siblings to be sure, but Michael has walked in his sleep before, and his mother hopes that’s all this is. Sister Riley is an unsympathetic character, who exists solely to exclaim that Michael is trespassing. Their mother tries to get Michael to go to his room, but the boy continues to repeat “They’re coming.” The scene then moves to a convenience store where a teen with his hoodie up tries to purchase some cigarettes and things go downhill from there. This is a story that is laying the foundation for what’s to come in future issues where connections between the three scenes in this book will be justified, but right now that’s not happening. There’s no explanation for the violence that occurs, just that the kids with black eyes seem to have some sort of plan. It’s difficult to like a book when a reader is left wondering what’s going on. Also not helping is that there are only two sympathetic characters in this book. Michael’s family gets the most focus in this issue, but the boy is verbally abusive of the mother, the sister serves only to state where her brother is, the mother is in an unequal relationship with her husband, and the stepfather seems to be sidestepping any responsibility with his new family. There’s no one to root for, so when some things occur in the end, there’s no emotional reaction from the reader. The incident in the convenience store has the cashier and the other customer sympathetic simply because they’re innocents, but not enough time is spent with them to give them any emotional buy in from the reader. Currently, all this story has is existence. It could change radically next issue, but on its own it’s not doing much. Overall grade: D 

The art: The visuals of Szymon Kudranski are unquestionably creating a sinister mood. The opening page with the boys and the dogs looks like a storyboard for a film. I don’t know why the snowflake got singled out on the page, unless it’s supposed to represent death falling upon the town, but that’s a little heavy handed. The first page has the mother and stepfather watching television. Again, Kudranski makes this very cinematic, with the large panel on 2 shown looking down upon the living room, a sight Riley would see if she were to look down from the top of the stairs. Michael’s first appearance is only his back, showing a similarity to those boys from the first page, though he’s revealed to still have his pupils and looks frightened at what’s coming. The scenes involving the convenience store are dramatic, but are undone by reliance upon photographs to create the background. They look horribly out of place given the scenes just shown at Michael’s house. The smudgy, blurry backgrounds are a distraction from the story and the action of the characters. The two pages that follow this scene again employ photographs. Back in Michael’s home, the setting is actually illustrated and looks vastly better. Paul is the neighbor to this family and his appearance and the show he’s watching gave him an unintentionally humorous bent: he looks like a realistically drawn version of neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He’s watching an infamous scene from Silence of the Lambs, which made me laugh. The ending sequence of events is much better looking, but I was finding myself frustrated by the lack of lights. Kudranski is creating a definite tone, but it’s only partially successful. Overall grade: C-

The colors: This was an extremely maddening element of this book. When I was done reading this I proclaimed, “Does no one in this town have lights that work?” The lack of lights assists in the creation of the mood, but became ridiculous as the story progressed. Guy Major does an excellent job on the first page, using colors to create cold, accentuate sounds, and highlight a streetlight. It’s well done. However, it’s ridiculously dark in the home of Michael’s family. They have no porch lights or interior lights on. Even when the mother goes upstairs, she doesn’t put on a light. Wouldn’t she do so because she half expects to greet her son in the hallway, fleeing from his sister’s room? The convenience store is lit, but it’s in sickly yellows. All this did was accentuate the use of photographs for the backgrounds. Things improve when the survivor leaves the store, but that’s only for three panels.Things are much better lit for Jim’s two pages, and I’m hopeful this continues when his story resumes next month. Paul’s house is also in the dark, and when someone comes to his door he doesn’t even turn on the lights. Really? And he opens it to strangers — in the dark? And then he lets them into his house — in the dark. This makes no sense, and increased my lack of care for Paul. When the story returns to the family, the lights are still off, even when a trip is required to return upstairs. Mood is key to a story, but a story in the dark hurts any possible connection between it and the reader. Overall grade: D

The letters: Sounds, yells, dialogue, dying words, and the tease for next issue are by Marshall Dillon. All are good, with the sounds creating a good punch to the story. There is an omission that’s not Dillon’s fault, but does fall into his category: the signs outside the convenience store. They’re blank. This had me wondering about this town: Do they not believe in advertising? Its exterior is shown twice and there’s no name of the store or prices for gas. If a store doesn’t state it’s name or it’s prices for fuel, it’s not open. This had me second guessing this locale. There’s also an absence of a name above Jim’s store, which would have helped the reader understand just what his profession is since it’s discussed for such a length of time. Dillon didn’t have to add these in unless he was told, and I have a feeling he wasn’t told. Overall grade: B-

The final line: Things could completely turn around next issue, but looked at on its own this is shrug inducing reading. Overall grade: D+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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