No horror story is more visceral, challenging, or dangerous than adolescence, but that doesn’t stop some ambitious storytellers from trying. Oni Press’ Jill and the Killers #1 follows Jill, a Senior in High School who returns after a year because her mother went missing. Her first problem is finding a new girl in her friend group who is suspiciously close to her crush. Her second problem pretending to like true crime stories to fit in, which leads to her third problem: she and her friend group get involved in solving an actual murder. Jikes!
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs is unwaveringly focused on the characters, allowing them to drive the plot in a genre that typically puts spectacle and drama first. Starting with the protagonist, her sassiness and sense of humor, used to camouflage her inner feelings, make her fun and exciting, a powerful combination. To complement, she has a complicated relationship with Ginger, her crush, and Clyde, the new girl, who, along with supporting characters Cher and O’Brien, form a group with distinct dynamics that make this story appealing to a broader audience. The readers are bound to find a character they like and agree with in a story where nothing is black and white.
In addition, I want to highlight the horror mystery aspect behind the book. The story explores the crime the group attempts to solve and Jill’s mother’s disappearance, creating a beautiful contrast between the simple and colorful school life and the upcoming hardships of an upcoming adult life, with a potential serial killer on the loose and a crime that spawns for generations. If not for the compelling characters, you will want to keep reading to know what happens next.
The art by Roberta Ingranata, Warnia K. Sahadewa & Rebecca Nalty combines perfectly with the book’s writing and structure, elevating the character’s emotions in textless detailed panels and subtly using the space and background to establish relationships via simple gestures. It captures life as a teenager: lots of emotion but not talking enough about it. In addition, it gives the tale a classic US rural town feel. The traditional town where teenagers want to leave to accomplish their dreams and where nothing has ever happened until now. You understand the tone this book follows: on the surface, this double-sized issue is a mystery with a twisted game of death, and at its core, it’s a coming-of-age tale about fitting in, bad jokes, and the importance of friendship.