Milkman Murders #1

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Steve Parkhouse
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

There’s nothing quite so terrifying as the realization that the world you imagine yourself in and the world you are actually in bear almost no resemblance to each other. That’s what Barbara Vale seems to be discovering in Joe Casey and Steve Parkhouse’s The Milkman Murders, and by the time I was done reading the first issue, I can see why Dark Horse has been so proud of this upcoming mini-series.

Barbara Vale has a husband, a son, and a daughter, but that’s where her life and the All American Dream have their only similarity. Her husband is mentally and physically abusive to her, her son mutilates animals in the basement, and her daughter is having an affair with one of her high school teachers. Worst of all, the milk seems to keep going bad. With bad news piling up and no sign of a respite, how long will it be before Barbara finally snaps?

Casey’s script of suburban horror is one of the most compelling comics I’ve read of his to date. Casey knows exactly what buttons to push, showing Barbara’s dream life playing out on the television even as the world around her crumbles. Casey writes Barbara so realistically as such an emotionally battered woman that you almost feel like you’re spying on a neighbor; you can feel her hope getting ground into bits with each interaction with her family. Perhaps the worst is not seeing her husband finally snap, but the fact that her children seem oblivious to the hurt they bring. Self-centered, destructive, and apathetic, Barbara truly has gotten her dream of the All American Family.

I was really surprised with how well Parkhouse’s art worked for Casey’s story. I’m used to seeing Parkhouse drawing more whimsical stories, so seeing him take on an urban horror story was a real eye-opener. There’s a dark quality to Parkhouse’s creations here, with Vincent’s sunken eyes or Ruthie’s apathetic glances. His characters are the opposite of idealized, with big noses and spotty skin. Just seeing the black and white preview pages, everything is so bleak and depressing that you can’t help but feel that as bad as things are, they’re about to get worse. And as for the final page… I have no idea where Casey is going with this, but with the way Parkhouse draws the new arrival into the house it’s so creepy that I almost jumped.

Dark Horse’s horror line has already shown us a number of hits: The Goon, The Devil’s Footprints, The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, and Criminal Macabre, to name just a few. It’s with that in mind that I have to say that The Milkman Murders looks like it could very well be the entry yet. Chilling and engrossing, this is a real winner. The Milkman Murders #1 arrives in stores on July 7th, 2004. It’s on page 26 of the May issue of Previews, or tell your local retailer to use order code MAY04 0022.

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