Children of the Grave (Scout Comics, $3.99) opens 30 years from now on Earth in Terra, an isolated village where town residents (“children”) care for each other with help from “providers,” the presumed leaders of the village.
Daniel, the 20-something protagonist, is not content with the village life and harbors a desire to leave it and make a path for the rest of the world. Brother Cruise, the Village head and mouthpiece of the “providers,” finds Daniel and warns him of the perils of leaving the village (“it is not safe past the outer rim”) while questioning his wanderlust and delivering mild threats against it.
Disgusted during a dogma-heavy celebration that night, Daniel leaves to commence his exploration of the world outside Terra only to encounter a mysterious hooded figure–shown on the Issue 1 cover–who reveals something of herself in a dramatic and shocking final panel that left me wanting more. Brother Cruise, shown after the large celebration, enters a mysterious room that reveals a sinister nature.
The comic has a lot going for it, and while this review covers the first four issues of the story, for spoiler-related reasons they’ll be discussed in vague terms. The first two issues simmer with tension and strangeness, especially around thetown’s mysteries. This comes to a head in a scene where Brother Cruise becomes aware of Daniel’s wanderings despite his warning.
The art throughout Children of the Grave is excellent; colorful, dynamic, and graphic. Issue 2 contains both an interesting dream sequence and a delightfully graphic chunk of action, executed with strength by the artistic team of Gioele Filippo (illustrator) and Marco Lesko (colorist). This is not a one-off; the on-page violence is extraordinary, turning blood splatter into art.
The writing team of Sam Romesburg and Ben Roberts deliver genuinely surprising and interesting moments that push the story forward. There is great strength in the story’s quieter moments: the brief backstory scene of a key character thirty years ago, or Daniel’s interiority in Issue 1 which dives into character at a tangible, personal level.
In a surprising moment in issue 3, one of those small moments creates a significant change that modifies the story’s tone, direction and arguably genre. When Daniel uncovers the larger, sinister truth behind the village as well as answers to Brother Cruise’s purpose, the story’s primary focus turns to the consequences of that discovery, exchanging a character-driven, tense story for a plot-driven epic. While some may not have a problem with this shift, it was an issue in the storytelling for me, personally.
Despite that change, I enjoyed and continue to enjoy Children of the Grave. It’s an interesting and recommended book. Scout Comics and the creative team deserve credit for a bold move, the kind of plot risk that few other companies take with content: horrifying, interesting, and worth your own investigation.
Want more comic recommendations? Check out In the Bins: Marvel Horror Comics From the 90s.