Writer: Tom Waltz
Artist: Casey Maloney
Publisher: Shooting Star Comics
The first two issues of Children of the Grave presented a gripping story of three American Special Forces soldiers deployed in the fictional (but all too believable) Middle Eastern country of Stinwan who have been ordered to assassinate Colonel Akbar Assan, a Stinwanese terrorist obsessed with slaughtering every last Kilipanese. In fact, Assan and his small army have massacred countless numbers of Kilipanese children (in order to destroy the future of that people). However, when the American soldiers reach the children’s grave site, all the graves have been emptied, and the children’s bodies are nowhere to be found. And thus, a mystery involving militaristic violence and supernatural horror is afoot...
Children of the Grave #3 provides answers. Well..., at least it provides answers to some of the questions that the first two issues raised. It provides back stories to all the principal characters (Assan and the three American G.I.s.), and all their life histories are interestingly similar. They’re all orphans; they’ve all been orphaned through brutally violent circumstances. If this were a different story, I’d cry monotonous writing, but in this story, which involves the supernatural, this link between the characters obviously serves some thematic purpose that will be illuminated, I assume, by the story’s resolution in issue #4. So now I’m dying to know how all this ties together. Tom Waltz has plotted a tightly structured story. This is a four issue story presented in four issues. That’s rare nowadays. Children of the Grave is impressively compressed with every page presenting a chock full of dialogue and captions. My main complaint about compressed story-telling is that it tends to provide abrupt or rushed transitions between scenes. This issue contains one such instance as without provocation, the American soldiers begin relating to each other the tragic violence that is the foundation of their lives. The manner in which the Lieutenant asks his comrades if he’s ever talked to them about his parents seems contrived to me, like Tom Waltz is trying to bring the story to a specific point without taking the time to get there in a more organic way. However, this is a minor complaint of mine because honestly, I’ll gladly deal with the few flaws presented by compressed storytelling than the numerous, more serious and more aggravating flaws associated with decompressed storytelling. Bottom line: the compression means you’re getting your money’s worth with this mini-series.
Even more so because of Casey Maloney’s artwork. The amount of detail Maloney provides in every uniform, every vehicle, every weapon, every piece of terrain is noteworthy. And some of the images presented in this issue (and in the previous issues) are fabulously gross. Maloney keeps finding new ways to show brains exploding out of someone’s skull. Other images are haunting and disturbing: a soldier’s memory of his mother getting raped, a man torn literally apart. Maybe I should mention now that Children of the Grave is neither for the young nor for the weak of stomach. I don’t want to overstate the impact of this title’s visuals. You won’t hurl your lunch reading Children of the Grave, but because of the amount of detail Maloney provides, you will squirm.
Children of the Grave remains a engaging fusion of the Military Combat and Supernatural Horror genres. Your enjoyment of this book depends on your interest in those genres. That’s unavoidable. If you’re a reader who doesn’t like to see abundant profanity in your comic books, it’s best you skip this title. However, if you are someone who wants independent comic books to present stories that neither DC nor Marvel nor Dark Horse would present, then Children of the Grave is the comic book for you. According to their biographies in the back of the issue, Tom Waltz and Casey Maloney are newcomers to the comic book scene, but everything about this comic book is thoroughly professional.
To get a hold of previous issues of Children of the Grave, your comic book retailers may need these Diamond Distributor codes:
Issue #1: Diamond Preview Number: NOV042877 (page 313)
Issue #2: Diamond Preview Number: JAN052919 (Page 322)
Issue #3: Diamond Preview Number: MAR053100 (page 326)
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