Pullbox Reviews: Children of the Grave Offers Post-Apocalyptic Mystery!

Writers: Sam Romesburg & Ben Roberts

Illustrator: Gioele Filippo

Colorist: Marco Lesko

Letterer: Justin Birch

Published By: Scout Comics

Available: November 11, with a cover price of $3.99

Earth, 30 years from now, somewhere near where there’d been a large city in an age past. Humanity now seems limited to a small grouping of young adults, “the Children”—none with memories stretching longer than 30 years—organized by Elder Brother Cruise and whose affiliation rests only in their participation in their nigh-living community, Terra. They “arrive” from the outland in the night as fully-formed adults with no history, memory or preamble, met and welcomed by the people of Terra as gifts to the community. All their needs are met, their wants addressed with little to no work on their part, other than to offer thanks. Food, water, electricity: all are available in generous supply with no tending of soil, no damming of rivers, no hunting or gathering. And all Terrans celebrate their Providers.

Well, all except Daniel. Daniel has always been more inquisitive, better read, more challenging than even his elder brothers and sisters. Tasked with collecting supplies and foodstuffs—things left behind by a previous society—to contribute to the celebrations of the community’s Providers, he frequently makes unapproved-of explorations past the “Outer-Rim” of Terra to the world beyond. In doing so, he has learned of the time before, of family and struggle and earning one’s keep. Of people at middle age. Of emotion.

This learning has led him to ask some questions. Questions such as why are we provided for, without earning it? Why do we have no families, no origins, no ancestry? Where do we come from, before appearing in Terra? Who are our Providers, and why do they provide for us? Who are we, and why should we be content to simply live as we’re told and be “content”?

And damned if he isn’t going to find the answers to these questions.

Coming next week from Sam Romesburg, Ben Roberts and Gioele Filippo is the first issue of Children of the Grave, a post-apocalyptic thriller with a serious Lost vibe…and what looks to be another in an increasing catalogue of great Scout Comics offerings.

Romesburg and Roberts present us an intriguing story concept with Children: a post-apocalyptic world that isn’t zombies and desert and mutated ugliness. There’s no Negan, no sadistic death races, no reavers. Rather, it’s idyllic, it’s beautiful, it’s warm and cozy and natural and—just perfect enough to be Children of the Corn—level creepy. And in Daniel, they present us an interesting hero, a narrator flawed both by his own angst and a simple lack of knowledge—we know more about his world than he does, or at least its history. Something seems sinister here—our hero intuits it, but can’t figure what it is just yet…and so neither do we.

And the writers set up their mythology well, employing devices both obvious and subtle to reinforce the dissonance of Terra. Certainly, the cult-like faith of the populace in Elder Brother Cruise and the nameless Providers, the complete lack of any knowledge or memory of “earth that was” despite it only being thirty years past and being surrounded by evidence of it. Names are gender-inconsistent (a male Charlotte, a female Cyrus), though gender-based pronouns are, at least to biology. Individual identity is marginal. People are seemingly content, but beyond our narrator, none seem to experience strong emotion. No desire, no love, no rage, hate or longing. No sense of family beyond that of the Terra community. Almost as though they’re…well-tended cattle.

A creepy and engaging set-up if ever there was one, with a boatload of directions it could head toward.

And that set-up is aided considerably by Gioele Filippo and Marco Lesko on the art side of things. Filippo presents us a steady, realism-focused line, offering us a world that is at once recognizable and familiar, but just a bit off. As though, well, thirty years had passed without anyone tending the infrastructure connecting one society with another…a Twilight Zone-esque setting of beauty and nature, but with a bit of a haunting undertone. Lesko’s colors do these lines complete justice, offering a wealth of bright, cheery color, focusing on the greens and yellows of growth, sunshine and contentment, then contrasting them with dark, sinister shadow in just the right measure.

Where Filippo and Lesko probably shine most, though, is in the facial expressions of the characters. While there’s constant exposition/narration by Daniel (we are fed his thoughts throughout), there’s not a ton by way of dialogue in this issue, making the nailing of most of “The Children’s” vapidness contrasted with Daniel and Elder Brother Cruise’s intensity all the more important—and they nail it.

Justin Birch is tasked a yeoman’s job in this one: this first issue, as all first issues are, is all about establishing the mythology, which means lots and lots of thought bubbles (or rectangles in this case). There’s not a ton of action just yet, meaning the fun sound effects are fairly minimal, but the entire piece flows well despite all the verbiage, which is a credit to Birch’s work.

All told, an excellent premiere issue, and a book I’ll definitely be following to see where its tale leads (and I promise—there’s more given to you than what I reported in this issue; can’t give away the whole tale here, can I?).

Now—something new and a bit different about how Scout is doing business with their new titles: there will be a two-month lag between issue one and two of Children, as there will be with all new Scout properties for the time being. This is to combat issues with Diamond Publishing, who demand pre-orders from LCS’s far in advance of publication and which in turn frequently results in low second-issue orders from store owners wanting to protect themselves from paying on multiple copies of a book that may or may not sell. So, if you do check this one out (and I highly recommend you do), and you’re as interested as I am in seeing where Daniel’s story goes from here, get your order in early, then be patient. Sucks Scout’s having to do this, but it’s the best they can do without forcing even longer lags for second printings (and frankly, a savvy practice from my point of view).

Children of the Grave, Issue One will be available at your nearby LCS or else through Amazon or ComiXology Wednesday, November 11, and will carry a low, low sticker price of only 399 cents, plus applicable taxes. Enjoy, and tell them Uncle Andy sent you!


Review by Andy Patch

Contributing Editor

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