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Aaron Slaughter, wearing a black bandana emblazoned with a set of white, fanged teeth and carrying a dragon-headed cane. His outsized figure is silhouetted against an orange moon, in the foreground is the House of Slaughter, its windows glowing orange as well, on the cover of House of Slaughter #1 (2021). Image: Chris Shehan/Boom Studios

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House Of Slaughter #1 drops us off at a boarding school for sad goth monster hunters

The comic spins out of the hit Something is Killing the Children

Just in time for Halloween, the monster hunting universe of Something Is Killing the Children expands with House Of Slaughter, one of the most anticipated releases of the year. James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera’s Something Is Killing the Children, with its approachable, action-packed horror mixed with heartfelt character drama and killer designs, has been one of the biggest breakouts of the not-Marvel-or-DC world in the last few years.

With all that and House Of Slaughter’s focus on one of SIKtC’s best supporting characters, that this is one spooky story everyone should be paying attention to.

What is House Of Slaughter about?

“You’re not a monster,” says Aaron Slaughter as he watches a stag hop away into the woods. Narration boxes in the panel begin with “Aaron Slaughter’s Hunt Log,” in House of Slaughter #1 (2021). Image: James Tynion IV, Tate Brombal, Chris Shehan/Boom Studios

House of Slaughter spins out of smash-hit horror comic Something Is Killing the Children. The James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera series introduced a secret order of monster hunters wearing stylish bandanas, staffed entirely by people who survived childhood encounters with the beasts. Slaughter expands on the concept by giving up a glimpse of how the Order of Saint George uses the eponymous house to turn traumatized children into even more traumatized secret warriors. The story is told through the eyes of Aaron Slaughter, a brother-in-arms to Something Is Killing the Children’s lead, Erica Slaughter. Unlike the impulsive and damaged Erica, Aaron is more deliberate and reserved. He understands the value of tradition and the antiquated sacraments of the Order.

House Of Slaughter floats between two periods, Aaron’s initiation into the titular house and his hunt for a monster with whom he shares a personal tie. We see who he was and who he became. The arrogance and hidden compassion that made him such a stand out in Something Is Killing the Children is still there, but mixed with a rough edge. At its heart, this is a tragic (or is it? There are more issues to go, after all) queer love story, and one that threatens to rip your heart out alongside Aaron’s.

Who is making House Of Slaughter?

House Of Slaughter comes from the world that Tynion and Dell’edera created in Something Is Killing the Children — in which childhood fears can create actual monsters visible only to children, and a secret order of monster hunters works to destroy those monsters and keep them secret, so that the confirmation of their existence doesn’t become a self-perpetuating cycle. Right now there are few writers hotter than Tynion. He is currently wrapping up his run on Batman to focus more on, among other things, his smash hit series The Department Of Truth and the Something Is Killing the Children titles. He has been one of the most surefire hits of the last few years and anytime he works on something new, it is worth checking out.

New to some readers will be writer Tate Brombal, who co-created the story and scripted the issue. Brombal gained acclaim earlier this year for Barbalien: Red Planet in Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe. It’s sensitive handling of the AIDS crisis through the lense of a closeted superhero put Brombal on the radar of many readers.

Joining him on art duties is Chris Shehan, the talent behind The Autumnal, one of the freshest horror comics of the year. As the name implies, The Autumnal gave Shehan plenty of experience learning how to make a forest absolutely horrifying. For a series about hunting monsters in the backwoods of the midwest, like House Of Slaughter, that’s an essential skill. Miquel Muerto and Andworld Design bring the colors and lettering over from Something Is Killing the Children, building the sense of visual continuity to the title.

Why is House Of Slaughter happening now?

Aaron Slaughter, wearing a black bandana emblazoned with a set of white, fanged teeth and carrying a dragon-headed cane. His outsized figure is silhouetted against an orange moon, in the foreground is the House of Slaughter, its windows glowing orange as well, on the cover of House of Slaughter #1 (2021). Image: Chris Shehan/Boom Studios

James Tynion IV is red hot right now. He recently announced that he was quitting Batman, the highest profile gig in superhero comics, just after winning the 2020 Eisner Award for Best Writer. Alongside Something Is Killing the Children and The Department Of Truth, his original DC horror comic The Nice House On The Lake launched with unbelievable high sales. He is the poster boy for the recent Substack moves shaking up the comics industry and his stock has never been higher.

That’s not even mentioning the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Something Is Killing the Children from Trevor Macy and Mike Flanagan. With it’s eye catching designs and a zeitgeist catching story, House Of Slaughter and the larger expansion of “The Slaughterverse” seem like a no brainer. And boy were they right to strike when they did, the title has orders for nearly half a million copies already.

Is there any required reading?

In reality, you could jump right on in here and get the gist of “secret school for monster hunters where Aaron falls for the new kid and they were roommates.” What you would miss is the deeper lore and setting of the book. To get that, you would need to read Something Is Killing the Children proper. There, we first meet Aaron in Vol. 2 as he assists his sister Erica in a monster hunt. The Order of Saint George is greatly expanded on in the soon to be collected 4th volume, originally serialized as Something Is Killing the Children #16-20. The truth of the matter is, if you enjoy House Of Slaughter #1 you’re going to love Something Is Killing the Children.

Is House Of Slaughter good?

Spin-offs are hard. Going from a focused vision to a wider world is a challenge that many stumble with. House Of Slaughter rises to the occasion. It has a distinct advantage in that, beyond the monsters, it’s a grounded world. The are rules of the universe and tenets of the Order, but they are secondary to the Brombal’s script. Take the White Masks that torment Aaron, a Black Mask. Readers of Something Is Killing The Children will have a deeper understanding for their rivalry with Aaron and the Black Masks (White Masks train as high power strike teams, and don’t worry much about human collateral damage, Black Masks train as covert monster assassins and always work alone), but all the story really demands is that they are bullies.

An appropriate metaphor might be the infamous lenticular comic cover. From one angle, you see one image, but tilt it and you will see another. That same principle is applied to every aspect of House Of Slaughter. Come to it on its own, and you will enjoy a fleshed out world, tight script, and powerful emotional core. As someone versed in the Slaughterverse, you will see the secret underpinnings to the story. Especially in the art.

“Do you know what Black Masks are good for, Tybalt?” asks a white-masked kid, as they and their two companions start to beat up Aaron. “Dying alone! Hah!” in House of Slaughter #1 (2021). Image: James Tynion IV, Tate Brombal, Chris Shehan/Boom Studios

Shehan and Muerto make a great pair here. The art is moody with strong character acting. The team cleverly uses the panel gutters to delineate the past from the present, keeping the reader grounded in the “when” of the story. But look deeper and you see a deep tonal consistency with Dell’edera’s work on Something Is Killing the Children. More than just holding consistent designs, Shehan delivers page layouts and panel structure that feels like Dell’edera. Dense, two panel spreads help control the pace, shoving as much progression as possible into a scant twenty-four pages. This attention to detail is critical in making this feel like an essential part of Something Is Killing the Children and not a cheap cash in.

Brombal also keeps his script in beat with Tynion’s defining work on the series. The dialogue is smart and engaging, but not too self-aware for its own good. Better still is the deep sense of kindness at the root of the tale. Aaron is multifaceted in this one issue, pushing and pulling against his conflicting inner desires. His rivalry turned affection with new kid Jace Boucher forms the spine of this issue, and promises to drive the rest of the story. It’s fascinating to for new readers and deeply tragic for ones who know how all this must end.

This is still the opening act of a horror comic, and one that has been more interested in the scars monsters leave than the scares they provide. Folks looking for pure terror theis Halloween might be better off turning their attention elsewhere (Something is Killing the Children is full of immediate spooks, if you’re looking for something!). What we are left with is a fantastic example of how to execute a spin-off. One that roots itself in what the audience expects, but trusts that they will follow where the team wants to take them. In a world where cinematic universes and vertically integrated storytelling has become a hot commodity, it is refreshing to see an original player spread its wings and actually succeed in the way House Of Slaughter does.

Two panels that popped

A panel of Aaron Slaughter putting on his fearsome tooth bandana and thinking “So there must always be those who hunt,” is immediately followed by a panel reading “Fifteen years earlier,” in which he saying “Fuck, fuck fuck!” in House of Slaughter #1 (2021). Image: James Tynion IV, Tate Brombal, Chris Shehan/Boom Studios

They are going to sell millions of those bandanas once this franchise hits Netflix.