Title: Brood X.
Writer(s): Joshua Dysart.
Illustrator(s): M.K. Perker.
Publisher: TKO Studios
Release Date: May 3rd, 2022.
My Overall Rating:
Life has a way of challenging each and every one of us, pushing us to a breaking point and daring us to do the unimaginable. Countless individuals have gotten through such moments in their lives, some carrying with them a burden, regret born from things done or said, while others embrace it, sailing into a life without remorse or care. And that’s when you realize that the person sitting in front of you might have witnessed or done things in their lives that you could never imagine. But once their world collides with yours, there is an opportunity that arises, one that will either allow these people to live beyond their past or to destroy anyone who crosses their path. Written by Eisner-nominated writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier, Harbinger) with a couple of artistic vignettes by artist M.K. Perker, this murder mystery over at TKO Rogue offers an intriguing social critique amidst all the strange deaths and buzzing cicadas.
What is Brood X about? Set during the Red Scare in the United States of America, as fear of nuclear war suffocates the reality of countless citizens of the nation, the story follows a group of seven laborers gathered together in an isolated region during the insane heat of an Indiana summer to build a bomb shelter. Carrying upon their shoulders the burden of their past sins, these curious figures are witnesses to a series of increasingly unlikely accidental deaths on-site that raises questions regarding the circumstances leading to these fatalities and the possibilities of a mastermind behind it all. Meanwhile, an infamous cicada swarm increases the tension and oddity of these incidents, sending everyone on the edge of insanity.
“We ride our own actions until some surprise outcome throws us. We answer as many questions and curiosities as we can about the universe before the questioning gets the better of us. The trick was to enjoy the fall, and he certainly had.”— Joshua Dysart
It’s hard not to notice the similar narrative structure as the iconic masterpiece And Then There Were None utilized this time around in a not-so-secluded location with the addition of a gruesome swarm of cicadas to get on everyone’s nerves. While Agatha Christie’s classic is difficult to top or reinvent, writer Joshua Dysart does achieve a somewhat entertaining take on the novel by inviting readers to discover this peculiar group of laborers who all have something to hide. While most of these characters are forgettable, their limited banter does quickly establish the numerous stereotypes and prejudices that they hold close to their hearts, their motives, and their reason for taking on such an odd job in the middle of nowhere. As the story progresses and they advance in their construction, it becomes much more clear that everyone and anyone could snap and do something senseless.
While you’d expect cicadas to be a major horror component of the story, their presence was mostly atmospheric in nature with superficial metaphoric ties to the story. There are some disgusting scenes including them but they never really seemed like a quintessential element to the narrative. The pacing of the story is also constant but the shortness of the novella played to the author’s favour, in the end, making it inconsequential to the reading experience as you move forward in the story and discover each weird death happening until the grand finale. It’s difficult to imagine a proper ending to this story that could allow it to break free from clichés but writer Joshua Dysart does a decent job in giving us an ending with a bit of social commentary to ponder upon. The couple of illustrations by M.K. Perker are fine, effortlessly portraying scenes for the reader to easily imagine them but were far too few to truly affect the story.
Brood X is a captivating novella following a group of individuals with sketchy pasts that expose their alienated selves within a world on the verge of self-destruction.