James Tynion IV is a GLAAD and Eisner award-winning comic writer known for works like The Nice House on the Lake, Batman, and Detective Comics. His books in DC are impressive, but they only scratch the surface. If you want to know more about Tynion and his best works, checking out his indie comics is a must.
I’ve always read comics, but my obsession with them only started around last year. I was reading more and more each time, but I couldn’t stop seeing one name repeatedly, “James Tynion IV” – who the heck is this guy, I would think. Well, apart from me, he’s one of your favorite writers.
If you like horror, Tynion seems like an inevitable path. Although he has many comics more focused on fantasy and other aspects, you will still see glimpses of his knack for the grotesque, like the use of body horror. His library is made of successes like Boom Studios’ Something Is Killing The Children, Image’s Department of Truth, and now his many Substack creations and his own magazine, Razorblades.
Tynion is not only a great writer but also a very knowledgeable person in the game of comics. He knows a lot about how the industry works and tries to pitch many new ideas and forms of storytelling in it. Honestly, not checking out his indie works is simply a waste, so I’m here to help you out.
James Tynion already started his career with a big character-driven mystery that has way more questions than we could even think to ask. In The Woods, our main characters and their entire school inexplicably find themselves in (don’t say ‘the woods’) the middle of a moon filled with forests and strange monsters.
We start seeing the story from two different fronts: the students who left the school and decided to explore the new world and the people who stayed and their struggle to gain power. Before reading, I told myself I’d only read 4 or 5 chapters to be able to write something here. But now I am writing this after reading one-third of it and still wanting more. While Something Is Killing The Children, Wynd, and Department of Truth are great, I wish I saw more people also talking about this banger.
Collects: The Woods #1-12
Collects: The Woods #13-24
Collects: The Woods #25-36
Collects: Memetic #1-3
Look at that silly little sloth, cute, right? But that’s also exactly what brings about the apocalypse in Memetic. People start spreading the meme to all their friends and family because it inexplicably makes them feel the happiest they’ve ever been. But 12 hours after you first saw it, you become violent and lose control of yourself.
We follow two central characters: Aaron, a boy that isn’t affected by the picture, trying to escape his campus and find somewhere safe. Far from there, we meet Marcus and his team, their objective is to find out what is happening and how to stop it.
Collects: UFOlogy #1-6
With stunning art by Matt Fox and Adam Metcalfe, Ufology is a coming-of-age following Becky Finch and Malcolm Chamber unraveling a mystery that affected the city and their parents’ lives. We have an interesting dynamic with those characters. Becky never wanted to be special, while that was everything Malcolm ever wanted; but neither of them got what they wished for.
If you like those X-Files vibes, check it out.
Collects: Cognetic #1-3
In Cognetic, James Tynion and Eryk Donovan work together again to tell another apocalyptic story. This time the world is threatened by an ancient hivemind that believes to be smarter and more efficient than us. The themes and some elements of the story are quite similar to Memetic, but here we mainly follow Annie, an assistant to the Director of the FBI, and how she attempts to face the hivemind and save her family.
Collects: The Eighth Seal #1-5
Amelia, the first lady, and her bizarre visions are the key aspect. Thanks to Tynion, they serve as well-thought-out creepy page-turners. That creates an interesting expectation; I, for example, was only waiting to see how and where her next vision would pop out.
One of the most interesting things about The Eighth Seal is seeing the first instances of Tynion developing an intriguing political drama, something he explores in a lot of his other works, mainly The Department of Truth.
This is a charming slice of life in which Tynion gets to use all his creativity to build many settings, situations, and personalities. Here we learn more about the fantastical world of backstage and the stage crew.
Tynion and Rian Sygh designed a magical and mysterious world with the right doses of comedy and drama.
Collects: The Backstagers #1-4
Collects: The Backstagers #5-8
Collects: The Backstagers 2018 Valentine’s Intermission #1, The Backstagers: Halloween Intermission #1
Boom! Box is a collection of short stories by many creators, including John Allison (Giant Days), Sina Grace (Iceman, Ghosted in L.A.), Pamela Ribon (Slam!), and, of course, James Tynion.
The theme of the collection is “mix tape,” so the stories explore bands, festivals, and the music world. Tynion’s story is set in The Backstagers universe.
Collects: Eugenic #1-3
The last of James Tynion and Eryk Donovan’s apocalypse trilogy. With each issue telling a related story in different ages, Eugenic discusses issues of big pharma, privilege, and unity (one of the themes present during the whole trilogy).
This was what started it all for me, and I imagine it did the same for many people. When we were younger, all of us feared the strange shadows and noises we perceived at night or weird people we had never seen, but we knew everything was probably okay. Well… in Something Is Killing The Children obviously something’s not okay.
Imagine you’re on a sleepover with your friends, and – as usual – you decide to play truth or dare. You make your friends go to the middle of the creepy forest where you say you saw a monster – but you didn’t, of course, monsters don’t exist. But then the shadows start ripping them to shreds, and it’s all your fault. To make it worse, nobody can help you, as it seems only children can see the creatures. That’s what happened to James, one of the main characters during the story’s first arc.
Erica Slaughter, the protagonist, arrives to kill the monster. We quickly find out she’s part of an order responsible for killing those creatures, but Erica stands out – check the chapter 6 cover as it brilliantly shows that – because she actually cares about what’s happening. The rest of the order is so preoccupied with politics and covering things up that they are not saving the children.
Besides crafting a very interesting and creepy story, Tynion builds up the tension by using drama and making us care about all characters. You aren’t only reading to see Erica kill every monster she sees; you also want James to have his happy ending, and you want the mourning mother to get closure. When I saw side characters interacting and I cared about them and their struggles I realized I was getting scared they wouldn’t get to fulfill their desires or stay safe. Tynion makes us see everything as Erica sees, rejecting the rational and cruel view of her peers.
Tynion uses every skill presented in his other works but honed and focused on creating a gruesome and complex world full of potential. If you are a horror fan and haven’t checked this out yet, be prepared to find one of your favorite comics.
Collects: Something is Killing the Children #1-15
Collects: Something is Killing the Children #16-20
Collects: Something is Killing the Children #21-25
Collects: Wynd #1-5
What can I say about this comic that might have just become my favorite coming-of-age story? Wynd presents us with a fantasy world where magic is infectious and weirdbloods, people touched by magic, are persecuted. Wynd, the protagonist, has magical blood and now has to deal with the changes he and the city are starting to go through.
Its great LGBTQIA+ representation really makes me wish I had already read Wynd a long time ago so I would have recommended it in our article supporting queer comics and creators. It’s relatable and sweet, and I only expect it to get better.
The characters are great, almost every time one of them had a big moment I’d think to myself: “Ohh, now that is my favorite.” I found myself wanting to see and understand more about them. It seems they are all already complex characters and I’m just waiting to know more about them. But what makes it best is that some, like Wynd, also want to know more about themselves, so we are kind of going on this journey together. And it’s a great one.
“Stories are powerful. They reach inside you and twist your way of seeing things.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the first volume; I always find myself having a good time when I’m thinking about stories in general, how they affect us, how we can use them to reach a particular objective, and so on. I realize this kind of discussion in your coming of age is incredible because it forces you to accept changes and that you still know so little of the world around you.
If you didn’t get it yet, please do yourself a favor and give Wynd a try.
Collects: Wynd #6-10
Wynd continues to learn more about the world and we start seeing other characters go through some changes.
Collects: Razorblades #1-5
Razorblades might be the most interesting project on the list. It’s a horror anthology magazine by Tynion and a bunch of other creators; the stories range in style, art, and even format. If you love horror and wanna see something different from what you usually get in comics, give this one a try.
Collects: Department of Truth #1-5
The Department of Truth is a clever and mind-boggling story about conspiracies and half-truths we create or are made to believe, and how they affect us. I don’t wanna go too deep into the setting, as I read it without knowing anything and it only made everything better.
Conspiracy theories are a common subject to find in movies and novels, but Tynion manages to create something new. Not to mention that the metaphors and discussions he brings are relevant (and will still be for many years to come). Even though you’ll want to turn the page and get your answers as fast as you can, it will force you to stop to take a breath and think about everything you’ve read for a bit. And I’m not talking about the writing alone.
I can’t imagine The Department of Truth without Martin Simmonds’ art. It makes everything more surreal, mysterious, and ominous. It fits the story perfectly. If I wrote “I love it” one thousand times here, I still wouldn’t have clearly expressed how much I love it. With this, I not only gained something new to read, but a new incredible artist to follow. This is not my favorite comic from the list, but it probably is the one I need everyone to read.
After finishing the first volume, read Dave’s incredible review and Reya’s analyses on the Variant Cover for chapter #4. Those are interesting and deep discussions I recommend everyone to explore.
Collects: Department of Truth #8-13
Collects: Department of Truth #6-7, #14-17
Collects: Department of Truth #18-22
This is a spin-off that gives us glimpses into the case files of the department’s Field Office, which monitor cryptids and urban legends from the Jersey Devil to Elvis.
BLUE BOOK is the first Substack original serialization Tynion made. He adapts true accounts of UFO sightings into comic form. It’s a story in the same vein as another of his originals, True Weird.
True Weird is more a kind of a genre than anything else. While True Crime revolves around serial killers, unexplainable disappearances, and so on, the other explores thrilling testimonies of encounters with strange and unknown creatures.
In this comic, Tynion brings to life an anthology telling about the times ordinary people met things that broke all of our rules.
The Silver Coin is a horror anthology about the cost of our desires, even the most simple and innocent ones. In issue #11, James Tynion and Michael Walsh create a gross and gory tale about uncontrollable hunger.
A small diner suddenly gets all the customers they could want and a bit more, but they seem like creatures motivated by some inexplicable need to eat; to make things worse, they do that in the most disgusting way. What could be the best day the small diner had ever seen, soon turns into a hellish landscape where consumption is all that matters. Food is great for a setup like that and, even though we might already expect how a few things might turn out, it’s an entertaining ride till the end.
I also have to highlight the lettering job done by Michael Walsh, without it the scenes wouldn’t be as near uncomfortable as they are.
House of Slaughter is a much-needed expansion to the Something is Killing the Children universe. As we learn more about the House of Slaughter’s complex hierarchical structure and the many different types of hunters they have, we’re shown that the Slaughterverse is only starting.
During the first volume, we follow Aaron, the only other black mask of the House of Slaughter, as he hunts a monster, his ex-boyfriend. It cements Aaron as one of the best characters in that universe.
Collects: House of Slaughter #1-5
The scarlet masks are seen as servants that only tend the house, so they haven’t appeared all that much. But now, after a series of cases involving “ocular incidents,” we gain more insight into Edwin and other red masks and their responsibilities.
Edwin seems like the epitome of the children the house is looking for; he’s almost 100% rationality and 0% feelings. It’ll definitely be interesting seeing more of him, mainly because he opposes characters like Erica and even Aaron, who knows he has to follow the rules but ends up breaking them anyway.
Collects: House of Slaughter #6-10
Tynion described it as “A queer horror answer to Invincible,” I don’t need to say anything else, and you should already be reading it.
But I will say nonetheless. In TOPLOCC, Tynion is attempting to create a new comic book universe, one that is obviously queer; it screams on your face how queer it is, and it’s the greatest thing ever. Of course, I’m lucky enough to be able to read/watch a lot of things that talk about the queer experience now, but it’s still so hard to find at the same time. So yeah, TOPLOCC is smart, fun, captivating, and really important.
Be sure to see what’s next for the series, because I’m sure it’ll be even better.
Collects: The Closet #1-3
Mixing horror and drama is one of the best things you can do to make everything more impactful and relatable. The Closet does that spectacularly; each aspect strengthens and completes the other. The horror takes its time to sink in, but when you realize it’s right in your face and you can’t escape it (and neither do the characters).
Collects: Wynd: The Throne in the Sky #1 (at the moment)
It’s the start of Book Three of the larger Wynd Saga.
To be released in December this year, Book of Slaughter is a one-shot special described as “the next great entry point” into the Slaughterverse series. Besides having a guide giving us more information about the Order of St. George, it’ll dive into the white mask Maxine Slaughter and her loyalty. I personally believe her future decision will probably change everything for the House of Slaughter and Erica’s life. Be sure to check it out!