Publisher: Aftershock Writer: Joe Pruett Artist: Szymon Kudranski Colorist: Guy Major Letterer: Marshall Dillon Regular Cover Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Joe Pruett, Szymon Kudranski, and Guy Major’s Black Eyed Kids Volume 2 is definitely a horror story, it’s just not a particularly horrifying story. What it is, though, is weirdly compelling, though … Compelling enough, that is.
So that introduction was a kind of matter of fact way of telling you that although I powered through and enjoyed my time with the comic, it isn’t without its flaws, which I think are sizeable, and perhaps take you out of the story enough to make you less emotionally affected by things. What Joe Hill managed to do so well with Gabriel Rodríguez in Locke & Key, seems to be a really tough gig for horror comic creators. This said, I actually can’t remember the last time I was actually scared by a comic other than L&K, it’s such a seemingly unattainable quality to grab in sequential image form.
After volume 1 the story is now at the point where the BEK’s (allegorically vampyric – even down to the ‘invitation’ thing) hiding in the shadows and biding their time thing is known to the reader. We’re also aware as to how we’re just crop and animals to them, to be their soldiers, and workers, then how they dispose of those that’re unneeded by them any more. But they’re also a small part of the tapestry, since Meredith, Lara, Jim, andd the latters’ kids Riley and Michael are all part of a seemingly unrevealed larger plot (both literal and metaphorical). Especially Michael who, as it’s left in volume one, is someone of import, but his failure to finish off his family once converted could mean the story unfolds differently.
All of that (above) is more background than you get ripping in to volume two, so I’m glad I’d read volume one. Volume two is really kind of driven by Michael’s inability (whether internalised or as a matter of circumstance) to kill his sister and family. Equally, the moments with the strongest atmosphere and intensity are Meredith’s continued chronicalling of the BEK’s assumed ascension to take the earth, whilst also trying to escape their grasp.
Pruett’s plotting and pacing doesn’t let up, and this means that, despite everything (see the next paragraph), you’re kind of involved. I do feel like it’s “involved” in the same way that you’re hooked in on that cable show that only you seem to like, and you just can’t get your friends to pick up. But still, there’s definitely something trying there driving you onward more than simple character investment.
Where BEK falls down is Kudranski and Major’s flat, yet weirdly layered, art style, and that this is frequently repeated, too. Art repetition is not an uncommon thing, and sometimes it can be used to great effect (see The Fix below, but I recall it used to good effect in some Bendis talking head comics with various artists) to provide pacing for a joke. So here it’s used to provide the pacing for what I’m presuming are the scares. I’m not sure that it totally works. The reason for which is the other thing I mentioned, the flat yet layered art. It looks a bit like a pop-up card that hasn’t worked. This is somewhat hidden by the sombre (Bettie Breitweiser lite) pallette, and it’s efficient (still telling the story) but I think it can be done much better than this, and certainly more sparingly.
That said, where Aftershock are right now, and the cost of producing comics ever rising, I can understand the choices made with the art. But it does feel like cheap animation from the 80s, a static nature, it doesn’t allow “movement” between panels.
Here’s The Fix to show you this done well:
What this does is actually take you out of the story and away from Pruett’s script, which, although not exactly giving us anything to overtly worry about, at least provides a little investment in the characters. Volume one killed and brought back enough folks to provide you some empathy with some of those who are nominally BEKs or their worker bees, but here there’s some fleshing out of that. Michael’s story is definitely a surprise, which (although not fully explained) really does actually provide a nice layer to how every character should be approached in your mind
I’d say pick up volume 1 if you already haven’t, and see if it’s for you. Certainly go through the online previews (I’ll put some of the images below the review post) as the stylings aren’t for everyone. If you’re already reading, chances are you’ll pick this up, but I just think that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be OK without it.
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Volume 2 Preview Pages – Collected from issues 6-10 online previews on various sites and comixology.