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‘The Closet, Vol. 1’ (review)

Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Gavin Fullerton
Published by Image Comics

 

Spooky season 2022 is finished and as we head toward Thanksgiving, it’s time to settle in with a fine batch of existential horror from the master himself, James Tynion IV.

Thom is a father driving his son cross country after his wife, Maggie, accepts a new job. He’s desperate for the move to be a fresh start amid some household trouble, which includes that their son Jamie is terrorized nightly by what he says is a monster in his closet.

The Closet is a monster story, yes.

And like many monster stories, the monster is here to show us some horror about ourselves as people or society. (Fun fact, the root word for monster is a Latin word for “to show,” just as we have the word demonstrate.)

Is Jamie’s monster real, or just one he’s imagining?

Without spoiling the story, Jamie and the monster is actually not the focal point.

We spend a lot more time with Thom, as the story fills in more and more of who he is. In short, he’s a thwarted man, filled with resentments about the everyday rut of his life as a stay-at-home father to a 4-year-old. As the story progresses, Tynion masterfully draws in details and conversations that hint at the past weighing his marriage down before we get the full picture spelled out.

Thom hopes that leaving New York for Portland is a chance to outrun Jamie’s monster because that closet will be gone; to outrun his past mistakes; to outrun his wife’s old wounds; to outrun his own frustrations. But he can’t outrun a truth I won’t reveal.

I do wish that this story spent more time with Maggie, the wife and mother, so that we got more of her own deal. She’s barely in the story, and we only see her when she’s angry and tense with Thom. It’s easy to forget the character, despite how justifiable her anger and tension with Thom are.

Fullerton’s art is simple and clean, with just enough details to make the story feel lived in. The designs of Thom and Maggie are real people, with real proportions. I’ll always ask for more panel work beyond widescreens. That said, Fullerton knows how to change the depth of those widescreen panels in order to sell the story and juice the impact of scenes.

The Closet is a disturbing read that plays around with existential and psychological trauma, and how those demons arrive for many of us in childhood. Read this collection of the three-issue series, and you’ll see for yourself.

Grade: A

 

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