PopCultHQ received a review copy of BLACK EYED KIDS Vol. 1 TPB from AfterShock Comics. Available now, the creative team for this series features writing from Joe Pruett, artist Szymon Kudranski, colorist Guy Major, lettering by Marshall Dillon, and featuring cover art from Francesco Francavilla.
Here’s PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free Review of the first five issues
collected into the first volume trade paperback of BLACK EYED KIDS…
Allow me to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a fan of BLACK EYED KIDS since I first picked it up and I am all the way current through issue #11. This review, however, will not take any of that into consideration. I want to express my thoughts on issues #1-5, those collected in this first volume trade paperback, and review it for what this tpb is without alluding to anything I know which transpires in future issues. With the upcoming release of volume two next month, I will be compiling my physical copies of #6-10 and read it collectively and review it as such prior to the tpb hitting retailers.
Art: Szymon Kudranski (co-creator)
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Cover: Francesco Francavilla
The first thing you’ll notice upon open the volume one trade is an introduction from Aaron Douglas. ARE YOU FRAKKIN’ KIDDING ME?! For those unfamiliar, Douglas is widely-recognized in the sci-fi community as Chief Galen Tyrol from Ron Moore’s relaunch of Battlestar Galactica. Outstanding actor, has immense range, and apparently the same penchant for the fabled story of the Black-Eyed Kids as writer Pruett. After reading Aaron’s quote, and once I finished reading this tpb in its entirety, I can wholeheartedly agree with the actor. #SoSayWeAll
BLACK EYED KIDS is a series filled with emotion, albeit the ones most prefer to avoid: fear, loss of a loved one, being scared/frightened, confusion, and a bitter coldness that reaches you internally. These mysterious children with the jet black eyes are roaming the earth; they possess increased strength, a resurrective ability, and a trail of bodies left in their wake. One curiosity is how they won’t enter a building unless invited in. Whenever the kids appeared asking, “Can we come in?” I felt like I was yelling at the book, “Don’t let those freaky kids in! They’re the devil! Slam the door and run!”
The story features many viewpoints and we’re starting to see how some are interwoven. The family attacked by their own son, the police officer witnessing unexplainable events, the infiltration within the prison system, and the novelist who was kidnapped for the BEK’s chronicling of the impending end to mankind. The Kids are killing, especially those humans from their previous lives in order to fulfill their destiny with this group of powerful, reborn children. Though what is actually possessing these kids is still a mystery, it’s clear that they are an above-average intelligence (especially for their age), they consider humans of lesser value comparing them to cattle, and there is a far greater plan that’s yet to unfold.
Writer Joe Pruett has written a terrifying masterpiece with BLACK EYED KIDS. I’ve always felt that any time a writer can evoke emotion from the reader, be it sadness, joy, anger, or a sense of fulfillment, you connect with your reader on a different, often personal level. Here’s the thing…the story he’s unfolding, the power in his delivery and layout, and this uneasy, spooked feeling I’m experiencing goes even deeper. It’s not an emotion I’m used to feeling, and certainly not from a comic book. But as uncommon as it is for me to experience, and how at times terrifying it can be, let me tell you…it’s a rush and a half and I only want more.
What impressed me most, outside of the story itself, was the delivery. It was consistent, descriptive, exceedingly captivating, fluid, and it never eases up. Joe’s storytelling and scene changes hit you from out of nowhere and before you can recover, he’s back with more to amaze you. Much in the way that Wes Craven or Stephen King are associated with terror and horror, Pruett’s paranormal writing prowess puts him atop this creepy genre. It’ll likely be imitated but never duplicated. If the second volume releases with an intro from Edward James Olmos or Katee Sackhoff, I may just lose it. Oh and many readers might not catch it but I love the name given to the prison bully in issue three who was trying to jack another inmate’s Magnum Magazine. Nice touch!
Szymon Kudranski delivers an eyeful of creepiness throughout the entire book. Many artists are adept at violent imagery, but to create illustrations that capture a creepy and downright scary feel, without the excessive gore found in horror stories, that is certainly a difficult challenge for any artist I would imagine. Well, challenge accepted because Kudranski’s art embodies the story with his mind-blowing contributions. The detail is crisp, yet never overly done to excess. Often times, it’s the “less is more” vibe in some panels that add to the intrigue of BLACK EYED KIDS. The layout and paneling are ideal for this story and his angling of certain shots and scenes is impressive. Kudranski and Pruett are so in tune with one another, it’s almost as frightening as this title.
Colorist Guy Major welcomes you to the dark side! Though I’m familiar with much of his earlier work, and most recently in the sweet new series BLOOD BLISTER (also from AfterShock Comics), it’s in BLACK EYED KIDS where he is able to break from the usage of a multitude of colors. For a story like this, and with the art Kudranski passes on to him, it’s apparent he’s taken to focus on these darker tones, look at all the hues and shades, and manipulate them to bring out the essence of the narrative. And even though his other series BLOOD BLISTER has moments of dark undertones, this is on a whole new level. It’s as if he’s found a somber union between inks and colors that translate perfectly with Pruett’s story. This is strategic coloring at its finest.
Marshall Dillon adds more than mere lettering to BLACK EYED KIDS, which is great in and of itself. But what you’ll notice, and particularly if you’re looking for it, is the uncanny way his lettering often mimics, and often accentuates, the mood and tone of the series. From the terror you sense in the dialogue of some characters to the strangely enchanting bubbles used for the “kids” words, Dillon adds that extra fear factor almost like the ominous music overheard in horror flicks to intensify the drama. Also I wanted to point out how his sound effects and shouts from individuals aren’t overpowering, rather he found that fine line between adding just enough emphasis without detracting from the story or art. Truly a skill in itself.
PopCultHQ’s overall assessment:
BLACK EYED KIDS will make you lock your doors and change your drawers. It is that hauntingly good. Pruett and Kudranski have set the bar high for creepy thrillers with B.E.K., and frankly I don’t see anyone coming close any time soon. They’ve captured an eerie quality that Hollywood often has difficulties fully grasping or conveying. It’s like all the best parts of an M. Night Shyamalan film but without the letdowns.
I think what’s important to highlight, not only with this tpb but the series in general, is the cohesiveness of the creative team. Sure, creators on an issue are supposed to work together but on BLACK EYED KIDS it’s as if this project was the equal brainchild of each contributor. Read the first volume, or even the first few issues, and you’ll pick up that all of them, Pruett, Kudranski, Major, and Dillon, want you to get wrapped up and FEEL this book. One of the best collaborative efforts I’ve seen from a team on a series in some time, especially in this genre.
The only thing that looked a bit off, and you’d really have to be paying attention, is in the first issue where the man sees the kids in the snow while about to enter his car (a few panels after the first image before this review) where the guy is in his car looking in the rear view mirror back at the kids saying they’re creepy. I might be wrong, but the two kids appear in the mirror the same way they did while facing them. And I know I’m a bit sleep-deprived, but I couln’t help thinking the mirror would have the the boys on opposite sides of how they were seen initially. Forgive me if I’m wrong in this assumption. It caught my eye and I was just unsure on that one panel.
In summation, if you’re looking for a creepy, eerie, psychological thriller from cover to cover, BLACK EYED KIDS is the only series you need. All I know is if I EVER have some kid show up at my door and ask, “Can I come in?“, you can bet your sweet ass he’s getting dropped kicked on the spot. Don’t care.
5 out of 5 Stars*
*Belongs in every collection!
BLACK EYED KIDS Vol. 1 TPB can be purchased now digitally at ComiXology
or in print format at your local comic shop and various online retailers!
Be sure to watch for the second volume collecting issues 6-10 of BLACK EYED KIDS!
The urban legend come to life. The Black-Eyed Children have announced their presence with horrific authority, leaving lives shattered and multiple bodies in their wake. Jim Loudin and his family, along with a local police officer and a mysterious stranger, seemingly with past ties to these devil children, fight not only for their own lives, but for potentially mankind’s very existence.
Collecting issues 6-10 of the critically-acclaimed series, and the original short story from the AFTERSHOCK GENESIS one-shot. Written by Eisner winner Joe Pruett and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski.
And watch for PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free review of Volume Two very soon!
Be sure to follow the creative team!
Writer – Joe Pruett
Artist – Szymon Kudranski
Colorist – Guy Major
Letterer – Marshall Dillon
Publisher – AfterShock Comics