"The Dollhouse Family #1": No supernatural horror here, just the domestic kind

Writer: Mike Carey, Layouts: Peter Gross, Finishes: Vince Locke, Colors: Cris Peter, Letters: Todd Klein.

M.R. Carey's The Dollhouse Family is the second in the massive line that comprises the "Hill House" label that DC has very recently implemented.

I've been expecting a huge push towards the horror genre in comics, and it greatly appeared that would be the case with the combo of DC's Black Label and the Hill House label. But I'm now starting to feel that these titles are exploring more the horror of real life, as opposed to the mysterious supernatural horror that folks reading comics might be used to. With The Dollhouse Family, we have a book that focuses mostly on domestic abuse as a conduit for the horror the Hill House label aims to instill upon its readers.

Gross, Locke, and Peter present a visually appealing tale for readers, though Carey's script leaves me with far more head-scratching questions than it does a feeling of curiosity and wonder about what is going to come next in this mini-series. The Dollhouse Family often feels forced in its pacing, a sudden nonchalant introduction of a solution for the main character very harshly throws off the pacing. We have a long-winded explanation of where the Dollhouse originates (supposedly), a drawn-out interaction/introduction with its inhabitants, the sly whisper about a quick fix to the Alice Dearly's problems, and the very confusing interaction with the entity and Alice herself.

While it may seem like Carey has a clear idea of what exactly he wants to explore as far as the varying plotlines go, the book seemed filled with a steadily building noise. Now, this could have been intentional given the state of the last few pages of the book, and would certainly jive with Alice and the House's interactions, but the back and forth between the different centuries harshly takes away from that buildup in this premier issue.

The Dollhouse Family may have promise, but its attempt at giving some primordial reason for the more current state of affairs is more detrimental and fills up essential story space with a seemingly needless cave exploration and an unnecessary sex scene. For example, the cat angle could have been delved into a bit, rather than an alternating mishmash of sex and abuse that comprised an entire page.

TDF has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as far as the Hill House books go. Even though Basketful of Heads left off on what felt like a midway point to a premier issue, I'm still much more partial to go down that rabbit hole with its mostly straightforward premise as opposed to this tale that could have sufficed as a one-shot, should it have included a few more panels.

In any case, The Dollhouse Family has some sweet cover art, which was a huge plus for me, so if nothing else, be sure to grab a copy of your favorite cover for a sick display piece.

The Dollhouse Family #1 is available at your local comic shop or favorite online retailer as of 11/13/19- the links in the photos go directly to their respective pages on Midtown Comics's site.

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