Title: The Dollhouse Family.
Series: Hill House Comics #2.
Writer(s): Mike Carey.
Layouts: Peter Gross.
Finishes: Vince Locke.
Colourist(s): Cris Peter.
Letterer(s): Todd Klein.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Release Date: October 13th, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Also in the Hill House Comics series:
Basketful of Heads by Joe Hill.
THE LOW, LOW WOODS BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
Daphne Byrne by Laura Marks.
Plunge by Joe Hill.
There are objects in life that tend to naturally convey an eerie atmosphere without much effort. Their mere design makes them terrifying as you pray that they don’t do something impossible, whether it’s to move around on their own or to suddenly talk to you. As part of the Hill House Comics line-up, writer Joe Hill reaches out to another well-known horror writer who has a gift to build unique worlds that make you wish that anything he shares remains in the domain of fiction. Teamed up for an original vintage horror story is writer M.R. Carey (The Girl with All the Gifts, Lucifer), artist Peter Gross (The Books of Magic), and Vince Locke (A History of Violence), as they present to us the life of Alice and the Dollhouse family.
What is The Dollhouse Family about? At the age of six, Alice receives a mysterious and stunning 19th-century dollhouse containing a family of five little antique dolls. Absorbed by the joy it brings to her life, especially in the midst of her parent’s tendency to indulge in domestic violence, she quickly learns that her dollhouse comes with a bit of magic, magic that allows her to enter the dollhouse and discover a family unlike anything she ever knew before. However, deep in the dollhouse lies the Black Room and it has an offer that Alice could never refuse. It wouldn’t take much for her to have exactly what she wants if only she says the word. But will she accept the offer and allow the dollhouse to have what it wants or will she fight on to live the life she’s given?
“One by one, go down, be weighed. Be weightless, come up, only one.”— Mike Carey
You bet that I don’t want to be near these kinds of dollhouses in my life. Dolls tend to be creepy no matter what and, rest assured, I’ve seen some repulsive ones in my life. Writer Mike Carey builds his story around this one relic, an absolutely innocent dollhouse, that has an age-old history across multiple generations. The story shifts across two narratives, the first one following Alice throughout her life as the dollhouse continues to haunt and entice her into accepting its offers, and the second one following an 1826 Ordnance Survey mapping project of Ireland where a supernatural plot is at play amongst humans. While the story-telling is very heavy in world-building, successfully so, most of the reward of this tale comes in the form of intrigue where only those curious enough to stick around until the revelation at the heart of this horror story will truly find something worthwhile in this graphic novel. Many of the events that occur throughout this story do feel bland on the surface but the mythological overcoat laid upon the horror elements makes this story interesting enough to not suffer too much from the linear and dull narrative building it all up.
The artwork is on the rougher side of things as artist Peter Gross and Vince Locke work together towards building a cohesive style that matches the time periods explored in the story but to also allow readers to grasp a sense of claustrophobia in how the events unfold, especially through characters trapped in schemes that are beyond their control. The colours by Cris Peter convey a relatively numb tone that often alludes to sickness and torment. Together, the artistic team succeeds in maintaining an artistic vision that works for the story but doesn’t do much more than it could’ve to give it the edge it needed to stand out from the crowd. The horror elements are spectacular and creative by the end of the story but remain enclosed in the same tonality as the rest of the volume. If there is something to be said about the artwork, it is that it remained entertainingly mundane through and through.
The Dollhouse Family is a coherent yet insipid horror story centered around an ancient dollhouse and one girl who did everything she could to ignore it.