This was enjoyable. It’s very much like an old Vertigo comic – and that’s not surprising as Carey and Gross are former Vertigo collaborators on titles like The Unwritten and Lucifer. It’s part of Joe Hill’s Hill House horror imprint and, based on the quality of the storytelling here, I’m likely to pick up some of the other horror titles.
Set in Britain, the central story is about a little girl, Alice, who is given an incredibly life-like antique dollhouse. Her father is an unemployed carpenter in the early 80s who takes out his frustrations by repeatedly beating up Alice’s mother. The child is painfully aware of the domestic abuse and retreats into (what you at first assume to be) a fantasy where she shrinks and joins the family of dolls. The dolls are all nineteenth century in their appearance and manners. There’s a secondary story involving a cartographer, Joeseph Kent, in 1826 who enters a cave in Ireland and discovers a giant sleeping figure. At this point it’s not clear how the stories are connected, other than that Kent had the dollshouse made for his first son.
As the beginning of a horror story, it’s got me hooked. Creepy dollhouse, mysterious supernatural voice, gothic vibe. Great. Plus, setting it in Thatcher’s Britain, at a time of grim social distress, is very interesting. Certainly it provides an idea about where Carey and Gross position their horror: the early eighties is often considered a considerably important period for horror in literature and film.