The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 149 | The Milkman Murders hardcover review

Leaving Proof 149 | The Milkman Murders hardcover review
Published on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by
Image Comics collects Joe Casey and Steve Parkhouse’s violently nihilistic send-up of suburban domesticity in The Milkman Murders hardcover. Get all the details in our full review.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Disturbing mix of psychological horror and absurdist fiction.
  • Outstanding line art and coloring.
  • Excellent value.

Cons:

  • None of significant note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: September 2012
  • Written by: Joe Casey
  • Interior Art by: Steve Parkhouse
  • Cover art by: Joe Casey and Duncan Rouleau (based on the art of Steve Parkhouse)
  • Book Design by: Drew Gill
  • Format: 100 page full-color hardcover. Collects The Milkman Murders #s 1–4, originally published in single magazine format by Dark Horse Comics in 2004.
  • List Price: $14.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on September 26, 2012

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Full Review

Since the 1950s, the image of the single-family detached suburban home with its two-car garage and flawlessly maintained lawn has been almost synonymous with the American Dream. Rapid improvements in commuter infrastructure and various economic and social pressures prompted the so-called “white flight” to bedroom communities found in the interstices between the outer edges of urban and rural areas, creating a set of demographic and socio-economic circumstances arguably unique to post-World War II America. The emergent social dysfunctions found in these homogeneous residential hives have proven to be ripe targets for highlighting, and even lampooning, by artists and writers over the years. Films (Ordinary People, Little Children, American Beauty), novels (Revolutionary Road, The Stepford Wives, The Corrections), and television series (Married… with Children, Breaking Bad, Mad Men) have explored in various ways the disconcerting discrepancy between the ideal of suburban family life and the reality that—accurately or not—has come to be characterized in popular culture representations by artifice, repression, ennui, apathy, and frustration. In The Milkman Murders, Joe Casey takes that incongruity to its violent, nihilistic, and absurdist extreme.

The Vales are a suburban family in the grip of moral decay and decline—that is, if one assumes that they were ever a normal family in the first place. Teenage daughter Ruthie barely exerts any effort in concealing her torrid affair with a married physical education teacher decades her senior. Adolescent son Fletcher has made a secret hobby out of killing and skinning the neighborhood pets. Abusive husband-and-father Vincent spends his evenings doing hard drugs with his buddies. Matriarch Barbara lives the role of the ideal wife-and-mother, futilely trying to measure up to the impossible standards set by happy TV homemaker Carol White—the book’s version of Leave it to Beaver ‘s June Cleaver—even as the signs of her family’s spreading emotional and psychological rot become harder and harder for her to dismiss. Barbara’s offspring and spouse are abhorrent and repugnant, but Casey doesn’t exactly make her a sympathetic protagonist, either. Up to a point, Barbara seems to be content in her passivity and willful ignorance, engaging in self-deception in an effort to maintain a fragile fantasy of suburban normalcy, and only a chance (and traumatic) encounter with a deranged milkman catalyzes Barbara’s transformation from long-suffering doormat to crazed, homicidal transgressor. A reasonably consistent dream logic directs the narrative over its second half, although the coda’s revelations might still strike some readers as a tad too arbitrary.

The Milkman Murders finds British comics industry veteran Steve Parkhouse in fine, fine form. His fluid and dynamic linework is impressive and his portrayals of the Vale clan—the haggard and flabby Vincent, the dumpy Barbara, their sneering, skinny children—and their neighbors echo their internal blight in a rendering style somewhat reminiscent of vintage Mort Drucker. Backgrounds are highly detailed without being cluttered, and the coloring—what appears to be a combination of marker and watercolor—is perfectly executed: The book has all the visual hallmarks of a high-end hardcover at a pleasantly wallet-friendly list price.

The violent, bleak, and hopeless take on suburbia on offer in The Milkman Murders isn’t for everybody, but those willing to take a chance on Casey and Parkhouse’s nightmare vision of the soured American Dream will find a challenging and visually engrossing read. Recommended.

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