Vertigo is currently in the midst of launching several new series, with a new #1 issue releasing every week in the closing months of 2015. The publisher has courted a number of high-profile creators for this resurgence of books, from novelist Holly Black to Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. Their creator lineup also includes writer Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and artist Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), the team behind The Twilight Children.
The Twilight Children takes place in a small, beachside Latin American town. It immediately feels familiar, utilizing characters typical of a small-town drama: the town drunk, the gruff sheriff, etc. The book draws you in with comfortable familiarity before introducing the supernatural aspect of the series. The town is plagued by mysterious white orbs, randomly appearing and disappearing throughout the town and surrounding beach. Nobody knows where they come from or what they are, but any efforts to investigate the phenomenon prove fruitless. The town has earned the attention of a CIA agent, as well as a scientist from an unnamed institute, but it seems as though the harder they try to learn the secret, the further they get from the truth.
The book introduces all of its characters with an easy grace, balancing introductions and brief insights into their lives before moving on to the next. The pacing of the book begins to pick up toward the end, but I enjoyed the slow, almost gentle opening scenes. When main character Anton stops for a drink after a day’s work, I’m happy to join him for three panels before he moves on. There’s a sense of apparent calm over the town, even as the cracks in that facade rapidly begin to appear.
That said, the familiar opening can also be a detriment to the issue. The focus on establishing the setting in the early pages makes for a slow start, which can be hard to justify in the single issue format. The easy opening scenes that drew me in might just as easily convince another reader to put the book down entirely. And while the ending ultimately justifies the slow start, the first issue will benefit after it’s collected in a trade.
Hernandez has an incredible ear for dialogue, crafting believable conversations between both the adults and the children. It’s especially impressive how he characterizes the three children in the story, moving them from an almost sage-like wisdom to panic in the space of a page.The first several pages firmly establish the setting and characters as realistic and believable. As such, the introduction of the mysterious glowing orb has a genuine impact. It’s not a scary moment, but it’s unsettling—it thrusts the familiar characters into an unfamiliar circumstance.
The supernatural elements are effective because they’re introduced with a light touch. The sudden appearance of the orb is jarring, but the sense of calm from the characters reasserts itself soon thereafter. There’s a subtle shift in tone after the first orb appears and it builds over the rest of the issue to a full sense of dread. That dread reaches its peak when the foreign scientist begins his investigation of the orbs, a nice play on the stereotypical mistrust of outsiders that often characterizes a close-knit community. It builds to an explosive climax, the fallout of which will be the crux of the series.
These subtle shifts in mood are largely successful thanks to Cooke’s impressive artwork. Cooke is an industry veteran and he brings the full range of his skills to this book. His line-work moves the story effortlessly between scenes of small-town life, sensual encounters, and supernatural tragedies. Many of his characters have a delicate feel to them, accomplished by intentionally soft curves and features. The art looks simple at first glance, but closer inspection reveals the great care Cooke takes with every single line. Coupled with Dave Stewart’s beautiful, vivid colours, the art in the book alone is absolutely worth the price of admission.
Twilight Children #1 is a slow, calculated start to a supernatural mystery. If the characters and setting aren’t enough to draw you in, the fantastic art and eerie last page should do the trick. The book marks another strong new series for Vertigo’s new lineup, one that should not be missed.