Often, kids don’t quite understand their parents and vice versa. Chinese American twins Milly and Billy don’t have a clue where their parents are concerned, especially Mom (Ipo). She’s a hard woman who always has a lit cigarette between her lips and whose shell doesn’t crack for anyone, except maybe her husband Keon. Milly and Billy run a struggling restaurant with a growing number of negative Yelp! reviews, courtesy of Milly’s temper. Their home is across the street from a rundown, seedy house that has been on the market for quite some time without a hint of interested buyers, but just like Ipo, the home isn’t everything it appears to be. Ipo decides it’s time to teach her millennial, clueless children a life lesson, beginning with cleaning up the house that won’t sell. As Milly and Billy attempt to please their mom, they soon discover that both the house and their family has their share of secrets.
With fully fleshed-out characters, it’s hard not to be instantly drawn to each of them. They all have their flaws along with strengths, which renders then incredibly realistic. At first, Milly’s over aggressiveness wants to push the reader away, but her tendency to fall back into the arms of her self-absorbed ex connects on a greater level. Billy may love his fantasy world a bit too much, but once he starts his investigation, he shows an initiative that reveals there’s more to him that readers first think. It’s hard to get past the cigarette dangling from Ipo’s lips, her tense features, and standoffish posture, but it’s also impossible not to love her from the start. And Keon’s overly laid-back attitude belies the tremendous care and concern he has for his family.
The complexity of each of these characters demonstrates the brilliance behind Marjorie Liu’s writing ability. Liu weaves a tale that flows from present to past and back again, one that pulls the curtains on each reveal with perfect timing. The shifts from comedy to horror to family drama are seamless and natural. Nothing within the pages is forced, and it’s impossible not to turn the pages. The re-read factor is also high, and one can catch so many little details upon a second read that enriches the story.
None of this would be possible without Sana Takeda’s art. The expressions on the characters’ faces sell every emotion and create intricacies and depth. There’s just something about the way Ipo is portrayed that endears the reader to her while helping her (and others) jump off the page into this world. We know these characters. We hear them speak. We experience their emotions in real time. Yet, as beautifully as the characters are portrayed, the panels of horror grip the reader with fear. Terrifying dolls, strange creatures, and some absolutely chilling and fun deaths… It’s all so amazing.
The first book in a trilogy, the downside is that it is the first, and the next installment is not coming out until Fall 2023. A year is a long time to wait for the continuation of this gorgeous tale, but it will be worth it. In the meantime, I foresee many visits back to Book 1 in my future.
Creative Team: Marjorie Liu (writer); Sana Takeda (artist); Chris Dickey (letterer); Charlotte Greenbaum (editor); Andrea Miller (designer); Marie Oishi (managing editor); Erin Vandeveer (production manager)
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
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