The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke is a book from Vertigo that feels very set apart from many of their current titles. For one thing, it isn’t particularly scary, and though at first it may seem like a book for younger audiences, there is something very mature going on within these pages. The story is short and sweet; and by the time is has come to a close, you’ll want to read the whole thing over again, partially because you’re confused, and partially because it just looks so damn nice.
The story follows a unique cast of characters in a quiet sea-side village whose peace is interrupted by an outer-worldly phenomenon. When three children playing by the beach stumble into a large glowing white orb, strange things begin to happen in this once tranquil community. A curious woman with white hair appears out of thin air, three children lose their vision, and a lonely old drunk vanishes from this realm. It doesn’t take long for these events to attract some unwanted attention; first from a scientist who is sent to study the site of the orb, and next in the form of two Federal Agents posing as tourists, whose intentions and identities are eerily unclear.
And now might be a good time to mention, if clarity is something you are looking for in the plot of your books, this might not be the right book for you. But if you’re looking for a book that makes you wonder, you’ll definitely want to give this one a chance. For while some may mistake this book’s conclusion as a weakness, it is exactly this open ended resolution that leaves so much for the reader to wonder.
This story is expertly paced and though its plot may take you right back to where you started, it never stops moving along the way. As a fan of Darwyn Cooke (Parker, Catwoman) these layouts and panels are fantastic comic storytelling, nothing is included in a frame that doesn’t need to be there. His transitions are seamless, using the motif of the white moon and the white orb he guides the reader from past to present flawlessly. But it is Gilbert Hernandez who gives us just the right amount of story from each member of the cast to keep the reader bouncing back and forth between them while still remaining interested in them all and the grander mystery at hand. The punctual pacing keeps you effortlessly reading page after page. At the end it almost doesn’t matter how the tale is ended, only that it has ended.
But that’s the end, let’s talk about the beginning. From the very start, it is Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart who pull us into the sleepy seafront village. Cooke’s expressive cartooning and Stewart’s muted palette let you nearly smell the salt in the air as the gulls caw above the docks. Nothing is said, and still we are intrigued to see more, to know more. The quiet feels unsettling, like the calm before a storm, and we are left waiting for something to go wrong.
As we are introduced to a few characters, we begin to get a feel for Hernandez’s minimal approach to dialog. In just a few frames, and nearly as few captions, the reader becomes aware of a love triangle that much of this series hinges on. Love, and the loss of it, seems to be one of the greater concepts that this team is exploring in the title. As tensions grow higher and a lulled panic begins to settle in on the village, it seems all that anyone really has to turn to is not a higher power, but those they love.
When the story comes to a close, it feels at first as though nothing has been resolved. For as the people go about their everyday lives in much the same ways as they used to, this near catastrophic event has changed the way these folks think forever. Tito, an unfaithful wife and local business owner, finally decides to settle down and get serious. The three children who find the orb learn a new found appreciation for sight. Bundo, who was troubled by the death of his family, finally finds peace. And a creature filled with scorn from another world is shown how to be loved by the entire village.
One of my biggest problems with The Twilight Children was that it seemed a little too limited. Not only in its length, but in its explanations as well. And though that may have been an intention of it’s creators, telling us just a touch more would have served this book a little better. But the colors, the mood, the pacing, and the earnest inks and dialogues; it all takes on a certain charm. If you like comics as a form of telling stories you’ll want to check this out.
- A modern take on classic science fiction that shies from futurism and instead explores emotions
- With minimal words, Gilbert Hernandez weaves a mysterious tapestry of local life in a sleepy seafront village
- Silently sequenced art from Darwyn Cooke moves this story along effortlessly
- The story's rushed conclusion may leave the reader with more questions than it does answers
- Characters motives are not always spelled out for the reader, and make the later half of this collection a bit too ambiguous.
- Though some characters are well developed, others fall flat and feel unnecessary