Review – The Dollhouse Family #1: Refuge or Predator?

Comic Books DC This Week
Dollhouse Family #1
The Dollhouse Family #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

The Dollhouse Family #1 – M.R. Carey, Writer; Peter Gross, Layouts, Vince Locke, Finishes; Cris Peter, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: Unlike the other Hill House book so far, The Dollhouse Family #1 wastes no time getting its twisted concept started. It’s a dark, haunting musing on what makes a family that’s one of the most ambitious comics I’ve read in awhile. Maybe a bit too ambitious, as it’s hard to see how this concept will wrap itself up in a five-issue miniseries.

It jumps around in time – not just from year to year, but from century to century. The main story centers around a little girl named Alice who is gifted an ornate dollhouse from an eccentric relative just as her family starts to deteriorate. Her out-of-work father becomes verbally abusive to her mother, then physically abusive, then potentially murderous. Alice finds comfort in the dollhouse, where she names the family of dolls within and engages in elaborate pretend games with them – until one day, they start talking back and invite her to join them in the dollhouse. The invitation of an idyllic family is enticing to Alice, and she soon finds herself shrunken to the size of a doll.

In a dark house. Via DC Comics.

This could be a fantasy tale, but there’s a lot of disturbing notes around the edges of this story. The doll family is very interested in Alice staying with them forever. The family – an inventor father, a kind mother, and three children, two playful and one studious – aren’t actually related, and none remembers where they came from. And then there’s the mysterious black room that promises to grant wishes in the real world, complete with something dark and unnatural lurking inside it.

This all ties into the second story, a mysterious tale set in the 1820s of an explorer who enters a mysterious cavern filled with ancient beings. The visuals in this segment are more overtly disturbing than the haunting ones in the 1980s segments, and it all comes together into a fascinating tale. There’s lots of parallels in this book to Carey and Gross’ short-lived IDW masterpiece The Highest House, to the point I wonder if this is a sequel to the creator-owned book. The second book in the Hill House line is an unqualified win, and my only regret is that the 100 pages or so we’re getting of it don’t feel like they’ll be nearly enough.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!