Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Joe Pruett
Artwork: Szymon Kudranski, Guy Major
Release Date: 18th May, 2016
People say that in horror stories, it’s often the things you don’t see that scare you the most. And after the second issue of Aftershock’s Black Eyed Kids, I can definitely confirm that to be the case with this one.
Hot on the heels of a genuinely spine-chilling first issue that I called “one of the most gripping opening issues to a horror story that I’ve read in years”, Joe Pruett and Szymon Kudranski’s series suffers its first wobble here by virtue of showing us a little too much too soon. It’s a common problem, particularly in the horror genre, where the reader’s imaginations and own personal fears don’t quite live up to the author’s vision, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen quite so quickly or quite so emphatically as it has with this series.
The first half of the issue is absolutely fantastic, don’t get me wrong. Pruett’s sparse dialogue and measured pacing works in perfect partnership with Kudranski’s dark, cinematic visuals to create a creeping sense of dread throughout. Splash pages are used to terrifying effect, and the inherent horror of these dead-eyed children really crawls under your skin as you tentatively flick your way through the pages.
Unfortunately, the latter portion of the issue sees a terrified author dragged into the “lair” of the children and subjected to a flat, fairly clichéd monologue from what I’m assuming to be their leader. Sadly, this sequence has a somewhat deflating effect on the tension that had already been built to this point, with the supernatural (or possible extraterrestrial? It’s not entirely clear) origins of the children not quite living up to the horror they subjected us to over the previous issue and a half.
There’s a still a hell of a lot to like about this series – and this issue, for that matter – but I can’t help but feel a slight twinge of disappointment that Pruett and Kudranski have tipped their hand in such an inelegant fashion here. Moving forwards, this is a book which is absolutely rife with potential, providing it can somehow manage to replicate the creeping unease that made the first issue such a jaw-dropping success. For now though, while I’d love to be able to approach the upcoming issues with optimism, the sense of dread I previously felt for the Black Eyed Kids is now directed at the series itself.