"Black Eyed Kids: Volume 1 – The Children" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by AfterShock Comics
Originally published as Black Eyed Kids #1 - #5
Written by Joe Pruett
Illustrated by Szymon Kudranski
Colored by Guy Major
2016, 121 Pages
Trade paperback released on October 12th, 2016
A small midwestern town is suddenly under siege by strange children. They lurk slowly through the streets under the cover of darkness. They're capable of great violence and prove that in droves as blood starts to flow from their kills. On the surface, they look like any other kids, clad in jeans and hoodies. Then you get a look at their eyes. Those are nothing but darkness. That alone would be scary enough, but then you realize they're wielding knives and coming for your throat.
Black Eyed Kids sets a creepy tone from the opening pages. You can tell right away that there's something off about these teenagers. Artist Syzmon Kudranski keeps their faces in shadow for a bit, waiting to reveal their eyes until just the right moment. It's amazing how unsettling a simple thing like black eyes can be. It looks so unnatural, removing all emotion from the face.
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Of course, there are those fighting against this supernatural gang of miscreants, including Jim, who has lost his son to the darkness. It's gripping watching him struggle with the idea that the person standing in front of him with murder in his heart was once his own flesh and blood. Now he's something more and so very dangerous.
Although Jim's story is gripping and heartbreaking, we don't get much time to get to know him before his life is thrown into chaos. This is the case with the other main characters as well. If Black Eyed Kids were a novel, it would have started five chapters in. As a result, the emotional beats don't pack as much of a punch as we haven't gotten to know the characters much yet. Jim and his family are introduced separately as he and his wife are divorced. They're murdered before we even know that they're related, so their deaths lack any significant impact.
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That being said, the killings are pitch perfect for a horror comic. You don't actually see them happen, which is even better. Instead, you see the boy enter the room with a knife and see the large “SHHUUNK” sounds erupt, followed by blood dripping down the steps. It's an amazing sequence. This is just one example of many that Kudranski delivers. The framing of every page is meant to convey the most suspense and terror, rising with each panel.
This tension works hand-in-hand with Guy Major's colors. So much of this book is in shadow and it's used very effectively. Although the eyes are filled with darkness, it feels like it's enveloping the entire town. You wonder if the sun will ever shine here again.
Black Eyed Kids expands upon the urban legend, but jumps head first into the deep end without taking the time to establish the groundwork. The various characters don't get enough time to develop before they're thrown into the thick of things. New characters pop in throughout the five chapters, making it more of a crowded story and still lacking the emotional connection we should have with the killers' targets. After all, we want them to live, right?