REVIEW: House of Slaughter #2’s Vibrant Art Reveals New Depth

In House of Slaughter #2, “The Butcher’s Mark,” Tynion and company pick up soon after they left off in their efforts to expand the universe of Something is Killing the Children. The premiere issue introduced Jace Boucher, a transfer student from New Orleans who becomes Aaron’s roommate at House Slaughter. Jace is a mysterious boy, but issue #2 gives us some insight into his background by showing us a nightmare/flashback he has about his parents dying in a car accident that he survives. Although Jace brushes off the nightmare when Aaron asks him what was wrong, the scene still brings vulnerability into their shared quarters and, by extension, their developing relationship.

House of Slaughter #2

Andworld Design (letterer), Tate Brombal (story and script), Miquel Muerto (colorist), Chris Shehan (art), James Tynion IV (story)
BOOM! Studios
November 24, 2021

house of slaughter

Speaking of relationships, the issue also subtly explores Aaron’s blooming crush on Jace. In one scene, Aaron tries to talk with the other boy on a bench to further their bond. But Jace once again brushes Aaron off, telling him it’s too unusual (and therefore socially dangerous) to form visible bonds in the Order of St. George. Aaron is visibly hurt, which shows him struggling to live up to the Order’s insistence on emotional suppression.

While issue #2 does well in providing these small, intimate character moments, its centerpiece is Jace’s bold, vibrant initiation into the House of Slaughter. This “untethering” ceremony requires Jace to sever and then re-form his bond with his totem monster, which allows him to break his oath from his previous house and swear allegiance to House Slaughter. Untethering from one’s totem is a highly dangerous act, and the art renders Jace’s monster as a juggernaut he must overcome.

Colorist Miquel Muerto’s skill in this issue extends beyond just Jace’s initiation and into other corners of the story. The frame narrative of the issue involves Aaron and Jace’s reunion as grown men at a fireside in the forest. Aaron stands against a blue background, while the firelight orange gently illuminates Jace and his red fox totem Scarlett. This visual division between them shows Aaron’s emotionally-cold commitment to the Order of St. George and his assignment to kill Jace, while the fire casting light against Jace suggests something perhaps more passionate and wayward in him. The alternating pattern from adulthood to Aaron and Jace’s childhood conversations, to the extravagant ceremony, allows both artist Chris Shehan and Muerto to shift gears throughout the issue, creating a layered atmosphere that makes the comic feel fuller.

Issue #2 does an excellent job of deepening the relationships and the world within House of Slaughter, but it also leaves us hanging with further questions. Why has the Order assigned Aaron to kill Jace? Is Jace a threat? What caused their falling out before? How will Aaron lose his emotional richness as a child to embrace a staunch loyalty to the House? The set-up of these first two issues promises to reveal the answers to these questions. House of Slaughter #2 ends on a cliffhanger, ensuring fans of the first two issues will want to pick up the third.

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