Many of us love a good mystery, but that’s the key word: good. While good, of course, is subjective, the whodunnits that captivate us most seem to be those that bring unique twists to the genre as yet unseen. There’s a reason that series like those of author Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and teen detectives like Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys are timeless: they all tap into a fascination with the genre while moving beyond the rote and staid. They understand that a mystery is only as interesting as the character who solves it.
It’s a truth that writer Olivia Cuartero-Briggs, illustrator Roberta Ingranata, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Haley Rose-Lyon understand quite well, and that’s more than evident in their work on Jill and the Killers #1, one sale this month from Oni Press. In the first double-sized issue, we meet Jill Estrada, a teen who lost her mother a year ago under unclear circumstances. After spending a year of she and her father coping with this loss in solitude, Jill is ready to rejoin the world and return to high school. However, as much as her familial world has change, so has that of high school. Her self-isolation has frayed friendships and put relationships on shaky ground.
In an effort to reintegrate back into her friend group, she takes on a hobby with which they’ve all recently become fascinated: a mystery box subscription service that crafts games of intrigue tailor-made to the subscriber. However, the box Jill receives seems much more than fiction, giving her and her friends suspicions that her box is tied to real-world disappearances in her home town—and maybe the vanishing of Jill’s mother. How Jill and her friends cope with this—and getting to know each other again—is the driving force of this inaugural issue.
And that driving force never lets its foot off the gas pedal. From the get-go, Jill and the Killers #1 packs in a wealth of plot development that doesn’t let up, even in its quieter moments. But that breakneck plotting never feels rushed, and that’s important. Making the first issue double-sized was a smart move, as we get to know Jill’s robust world and what’s going through her head without feeling like we’re just being moved from plot point to plot point. This is seen right at the get-go in the first few pages: Jill and her dad are debating the merits of her returning to school, with her dad suggesting that maybe she should wait a while longer. Even though the conversation is relatively short, we get a glimpse right away into how the two are dealing with Jill’s missing mother and his missing wife, while letting us get on with the story.
And that’s helped with one element that particularly shines about this book is its characterization—not just of the primary cast, but of the supporting players as well. Cuartero-Briggs brings a snappy yet very naturalistic dialogue to Jill and her friends that pops off the page, while also letting you know who they are at the get-go. We know who these characters are without any pedantic exposition, but in a way that gives hints that there’s more to them than seen at first blush. Jill is a fun character, but she’s not one-note. The loss of her mom has left its mark, and her pain breaks through and reveals itself to the reader in smart choices Cuartero-Briggs makes with the script.
But the writing isn’t doing all of the heavy lifting on its own. Ingranata shows once again why she’s one of the best to ever do it, providing line work that washes emotion over the faces of the characters in a dynamic way that immediately draws your eyes to the art. Having writers and artists be so in synch is not something that is always common in the comic book industry, but Cuartero-Briggs and Ingranata seem very much to be a full partnership, creating a comic that truly blends art and story. One never overpowers the other and its realization in Jill and the Killers #1 is very much like finding a unicorn in a sea of four-colored options. Nalty’s pallet compliments Ingranata’s illustrations beautifully, with the colors changing with the mood. And Rose-Lyon’s lettering is just a delight, making the action move as much as the art itself.
And that’s so important about a mystery comic book like this one. We’ve spoken at length about the characterization, but it’s because it lets us care about the cast when they’re in the thick of a mystery that frays nerves and scares the teens more than they sometimes let on. Cuartero-Briggs never lets us forget that we’re dealing with heavy themes and dead people and that these have real impacts on Jill and company that manifest in unique ways.
Jill and the Killers is an ebullient addition to the rich history of teen detective tales, one that honors those previous stories while bringing novel storytelling that is both breezy and engaging. Jill’s journey and the trials and tribulations of her friends will have you as invested as the book’s mystery itself.
Jill and the Killers #1 goes on sale January 31, 2024, from Oni Press. Final order cutoff for the comic is this coming Monday, January 8, 2024. And be sure to read our interview with Olivia Cuartero-Briggs about the book!
From the official press release on Jill and the Killers:
Oni Press– the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award-winning publisher of graphic fiction – is proud to share the first lettered look inside JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 – the double-sized FIRST ISSUE of the razor-sharp teenage thriller from rising stars Olivia Cuartero-Briggs (Mary Shelly Monster Hunter) and Roberta Ingranata (Witchblade, Doctor Who) arriving in comic shops everywhere on January 31st!
Returning to school after the unsolved disappearance of her mother, teenager Jill Estrada can’t wait for things to return to normal . . . even as her friends become compulsively obsessed with Box Killers, a true-crime subscription game where each month’s “unsolved case” is custom-tailored to the life of its player. There’s only one catch: Jill’s game seems to be all too real . . . and when her clues begin to connect to a series of disappearances in her town, Jill and her friends must uncover the truth behind these mysterious crimes before one of their own becomes the next victim.
Clocking in at 48 dangerously oversized pages, JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 is ringing in the New Year as the next must-read series from ONI 2024 – five gripping new monthly comic series from a diverse cast of award-winning creators and fast-rising stars who share a vision for the future of comics– they seek to invert, collide, and reinvent the foundational genres of horror, science fiction, crime, fantasy, and beyond:
- INVASIVE #1 by Cullen Bunn & Jesús Hervás in December
- JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 by Olivia Cuartero-Briggs & Roberta Ingranata in January
- CEMETERY KIDS DON’T DIE #1 by Zac Thompson & Daniel Irizarri in February
- NIGHT PEOPLE #1 by Barry Gifford, Chris Condon, Brian Level, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Artyom Topilin & Marco Finnegan in March
- AKỌGUN, BRUTALIZER OF GODS #1 by Murewa Ayodele & Dotun Akande in April
Featuring covers by Sanya Anwar (Clean Room), Marguerite Sauvage (Black Panther, Faith), Alison Sampson (Hit-Girl), and Celia Lowenthal (Dungeons & Dragons), JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 ushers in mystery, murder, and mayhem on January 31st – wherever comics are sold!
JILL AND THE KILLERS #1 (of 4)
Written by OLIVIA CUARTERO-BRIGGS
Art by ROBERTA INGRANATA
Cover A by SANYA ANWAR
Cover B by MARGUERITE SAUVAGE
Cover C by ALISON SAMPSON
Variant Cover (1:10) by CELIA LOWENTHAL
Full Art Variant (1:20) by SANYA ANWAR
B&W Variant (1:30) by MARGUERITE SAUVAGE
$6.99 | T+ | FULL COLOR | ON SALE JANUARY 31st, 2024
About the Author
Olivia Cuartero-Briggs is an award-winning dramatic writer, fitness junky, and girl mom, born and raised in New York City. She is the author of Mary Shelley Monster Hunter and Silver City with Aftershock Comics, as well as the upcoming Fate: The Winx Saga graphic novel series with Maverick (2024/2025). OCB is also a film and TV writer, whose most recent credits include Queen of the South and The Arrangement.
About the Illustrator
Roberta Ingranata is an Italian artist who made her debut with several Kickstarters before working with various publishing houses on regular series, including Robyn Hood and Van Helsing with Zenescope Entertainment, Withcblade with Top Cow, and Doctor Who with Titan Comics. She has also collaborated with Aftershock, IDW, BOOM! Studios, and Marvel.