Aren’t there days when you’ve had enough? Where you just can’t take it anymore? Many of us ride out the frustration alone until we muster the strength to keep going, but what if you were given the power to do anything you wanted? You could use it constructively, or you could eliminate the problem in the blink of an eye no matter the cost. That’s a dangerous power.
The Quiet Kind is a very interesting one-shot because it takes important themes of anger and oppression, contextualizes them in the modern world, and then adds key cosmic, mythical, and horror elements. The book follows Solomon and a few other marginalized, bullied, and oppressed kids that are given the ability to channel the rage, pain, hardship, and suffering they’ve endured into power.
That’s the foundation of this book, but there are a few more layers. First, these powers were given to the children by a twisted cosmic fox deity who just wants to watch the world burn. Second, this is about more than just children gaining the ability to fight back against their bullies. This about what could happen if any marginalized or oppressed population suddenly gained the ability to do something about it. It’s about how feelings and motivations can consume an entire individual and how little control we have sometimes. Sometimes it feels like there’s no limit to what we might do to get this power or the thing we’ll do once we achieve it, and that’s what this creative team tries to convey. These kids may be young and small, but with enough power they can do anything, and all of these themes, messages, and warnings are told on a mythical and cosmic scale. Imagine there were gods imbued with a divine power over reality, some based on animals here on Earth, others on myth or history, and others completely original. We’ve seen similar worlds before, but the children with these powers are some divine chosen ones or virtuous heroes. Their ordinary children with problems and grudges, so conflict ensues.
Those who have read Bitter Root from Chuck Brown know that he is no stranger to using horror elements to tackle very real themes, and with The Quiet Kind, he does it again. Everybody knows a kid who just wants to be left alone. They sit in class, rarely talk, often receive unwanted attention, and are sometimes miserable due to incessant bullying. These are the Quiet Kind that Brown talks about in this book, only now they have the power to fight back. It’s nice to think that we’d all use superpowers for truth, justice, and the forces of good, but haven’t you ever wanted revenge against a former tormentor? Would you be able to resist that temptation? Solomon can’t, and when he realizes the power he’s been given, he turns it on his bully Kevin without batting an eye. Solomon can manipulate life itself, killing any living thing or bringing it back to life. Kevin doesn’t really stand a chance… or does he? Sometimes there are no limits to the forms power can take. At the same time these kids are wrestling with their newfound powers, celestial beings are fighting over the concept of power itself.
There’s a heartbreaking scene where Solomon, Iris, and Oma meet Paul Lee, another child living through hardship who recently acquired powers, and we’re shown the meaningless destruction the results from trying to compare pain. Solomon’s consistent bullying and torment is a much different experience from Paul’s homelessness and financial hardship, but arguing over who is more oppressed only creates more suffering. It’s a very horrifying scene to watch as children weaponize their pain and struggles into tools of violent destruction which only create more pain and struggle. It’s a chaotic downward spiral that causes uncontrollable hurt and death, and the initial cause no longer matters. Brown is able to manifest the consequences of strong, negative emotions in ways that only comics can allow, showcasing how twisted pain, envy, and rage exist in the abstract and when people use them to drive their actions.
Chuck Brown, Jeremy Treece, Kelly Williams, and Adam Pruett are able to execute a vast amount of compression in this extra-sized issue. This is an entire world that is built and exists within its own mythology, deities, and issues that make The Quiet Kind a rich an entertaining story rooted in very human emotions. Treece’s art is extremely defined and textured with extremely detailed, animated line work and intense magnification. There is a great level of detail given to wrinkles and scales on various creatures that appear throughout the issue, as well as to blood spatter, debris, and markings that show really allow the violence that occurs to leave a literal impression. A lot of different line patterns and outline colors are used to really make this world stand out. Treece’s colors are also very unique and vibrant for a world filled with violence and destruction. It’s colored with a palette you might expect from a book of fables which really helps you focus on the lessons the creative team is trying to impart. That being said, as the destruction becomes more overwhelming, the color palette also becomes darker and more destructive. The bright green grass and blue sky, the fiery orange and purple action panels, and the beautiful and vibrant depictions of the cosmos become olive green and gray rubble, a blue-gray sky, dark mauve and maroon action panels, and the black void of space. Pruett’s lettering is also outstanding with unique word balloons for celestial beings and vibrant SFX that really match the aesthetic of the artwork.
It’s very clear that every member of this creative team was on the same page with the messages they were trying to convey, and this includes Kelly Williams’s work on the extra short story at the end. His line work is just as detailed but carries a significantly rougher texture giving it a more weathered, older appearance, and his colors are much brighter and more animated. It accentuates the fable-style of the book, but the content is a lot more twisted than that. It takes a classic tale of a cunning fox who tries to outwit an innocent creature, but this time, instead of the fox failing and learning a lesson, the fox wins and a poor elephant pays the price. Every character has very defined morals and motivations all within these 64 pages. Beyond the marginalized children, the celestial beings are characters in their own right. They are gatekeepers for the flame of reality, and each one has their own opinions on how it should be use. Fox is an agent of chaos striving to give sparks to a few humans and see what happens while Serpent and Wolf are older, wiser, and more cautious. There’s a lot of depth to these characters which helps make this issue one of the most character-rich, action-packed, and meaningful one-shots in recent memory. All of these layers intertwine into tho form a dynamic and complex universe in which to tell this story.
The pain and suffering that Brown is drawing from here is nothing new, even when talking about Brown’s own work. These children have experienced extreme hardship during their young lives in various ways, and while this is more chronic and drawn out, it comes from a similar sentiment as Doctor Sylvester in Brown’s Bitter Root. It’s a raw and infected place of anger that can never be healed. Just as Doctor Sylvester becomes the primary antagonist, these children, Solomon in particular, becomes his own undoing. It’s even foretold from the very beginning, and throughout the story, you’re not rooting for any individual in particular because no one deserves to suffer, but rather against the celestial fate that we see depicted in the beginning.
It’s ultimately Oma, another one of the damaged and marginalized kids, that convinces Solomon to be honest with himself and set the world right. She points out that Solomon’s motivations are starting to come from a sick sense of pleasure rather than a place of revenge or pain. There’s a darkness that most of us have somewhere inside that’s a lot harder for some of us to resist. It just takes a moment to pause, look around, and realize that you aren’t alone in order to see the damage you may be doing. Just as Solomon can kill and wield the dead so easily, he can also provide life and resurrection. It’s insane to think that a child kills a quadrillion life forms and just as easily revives them, but that’s the level of good and evil Solomon is capable of. Fox claims Solomon is destined to destroy the world, but Solomon’s actions are entirely his own. Our actions are entirely our own.
With The Quiet Kind, Chuck Brown continues the important work of giving stories to people who may not have a voice and filling them with powerful messages. It may only be a one-shot, but it always has the potential for more due to how rich and defined it is thanks to this spectacular creative team. These children aren’t and shouldn’t be role models, but not everyone is. Sometimes, all a story needs to reach someone new is a powerful message and real emotions, and The Quiet Kind should resonate with a lot of people as a clear reflection of what marginalized children might be going through.