Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Scarenthood’ #1 (of 4), out November 4 from IDW Publishing.
THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘SCARENTHOOD’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. With its punny title and its adult Mystery, Inc. crew lacking only a Doo, dismissing Scarenthood #1 as lightweight horror is tempting. If you’ll tolerate a Halloween-season Crypt Keeper gaffe, it would also be a grave error.
Writer/artist Nick Roche, colorist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Shawn Lee cast their tale using two distinct horror molds. One draws upon a mortal fear of the unknown, of possible destinations and way-stops between death and its aftermath. Nightmare creatures and lost souls interacting with the waking world when barriers between realms stretch thin.
Much underlying tension and dread flows from their second horror headwater: Fear of failing our children. Not necessarily failure protecting them, a proven Stephen King pillar of unease, but failure nurturing them, failure living up to our promises, failure of focus even when their wellbeing is our intent. Failure setting their example. Failure helping them become good human beings.
Both fabrics can be stitched together effectively as in King’s Pet Sematary. Roche, however, is plucking subtler heartstrings with Scarenthood. Potential harm looming over the children is supernatural, yes. But he layers it against a single-parent father spinning many plates, one of them his pre-school daughter’s welfare, and faltering. Mystic threats we don’t cope with daily, but here’s trepidation we identify with.
Roche and company may end up expanding the horror to true, physical peril for our protagonist’s child and her kindermates, but it’s only the first issue. A toddler’s diabetes-inducing precociousness is handily balanced with peevish pettiness for believable child representation. The adult protagonists serve as reflections for their progeny, proving we aren’t exactly vying for Nobel Peace Prizes once childhood ends.
Our four main grownups live in the modern Irish townland of Rathdaggan. They’re varied in age and outlooks yet linked by their kids attending the same pre-school and Roche delivers them with a Scooby glimmer seen through a Guinness lens. Flynno is an older dad, one of the Cool Kids backwhen, now following online conspiracy theories. Fred, despite the ascot, was probably a cool kid. Jen is the stay-at-home mom raising daughter Abigail while husband Diarmuid is away working a rig job. She’s attractive, had some rowdy teen years, and chafes against her current routine. Maybe a Daphne. Sinead’s outward appearance suggests Velma, but we learn little about her yet. Cormac Hatchell was an Uncool kid, probably the sort Flynno bullied, perhaps a Shaggy analog. His relationship to daughter Bethany, nicknamed Scooper, is sweet but troubled. Mom’s not in the picture, the reasons blurry.
Cormac, in fact, smudges and fudges them depending on who he’s talking to, creating a side puzzle. The main mystery regards the old building where the daycare is housed and a legend about a child vanishing within its confines. The facility’s auditorium has allegedly hosted other weird phenomena over the years, namely three animated holy statues. Cormac, new in town, calls poppycock on the lot when he hears Flynno telling the others about the legends. They sound like typical, passed-down scary stories to him. Until Cormac has an unnerving experience which might prove they’re not merely fanciful, homespun yarns.
Nick Roche’s art has appeared in books from 2000 AD to Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. Doing double-duty on Scarenthood, he scripts a story combining his talents effectively. His children, especially Bethany, are wonderfully expressive and they ‘speak’ as intuitive, bright, and innocent kids. Artistically, Roche puts you at ease with his homey style before dropping the horrific alongside. We get only a dash, but it’s Gaines-ian nightmarish.
His best build, however, isn’t relating eerie, unsettling legends. It’s the perfectly mysterious relationship between Cormac, Scooper, and the missing mother. Cormac is parenting alone while working on something unexplained. It draws him constantly away from Bethany, making him forget pick-up times, forget meals. He clearly adores her, yet his attention’s divided and time’s his master. It’s no accident Roche’s most frightful image is simply a cell phone displaying the hour and a number of missed calls.
Scarenthood is horror for parents or those empathic with wee ones. We’ve all seen things from kid perspectives and remember what being disappointed by our parents hurts like. If ghastly and ghoulish imagery abound in your favored terror tales, this may be outside your zone; Roche works in astute, understated fear and with a wry, humorous gift for capturing adult and child interactions. O’Halloran, fresh from eerie titles such as Ice Cream Man and Immortal Hulk, make his colors match the tone.
One striking image, a small Madonna encircled by a bramble of thorns, becomes a fitting centerpiece for sinister doings, not the stuff of jump-scares or hockey masks. It’s an exploration of fear and foreboding as four parents unite in solving a supernatural mystery while entwined by the prickly challenges of parenthood. Now that is scary.
IDW Publishing / $4.99.
Written by Nick Roche.
Art by Nick Roche.
Colors by Chris O’Halloran.
Letters by Shawn Lee.
7.5 out of 10
‘Scarenthood’ #1 (of 4), drops November 4 from IDW Publishing.