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The Dollhouse Family Review

**I received a free electronic copy of this book from DC Comics through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Due to copyright restrictions, please see the purchase links for a look at the cover and a preview of the inside.**

In 1979, Alice receives a mysterious dollhouse. She uses this toy to cope with her father's verbal and physical abuse toward her mother. What begins as figurative escapism quickly turns into something seemly innocent on the surface. The dark secrets contained within the rooms will follow Alice into her adult life and she must confront the evil that won't stop hunting her.


Since this is the second title I have read from Hill House Comics, I could not help but compare it to my first experience with The Low, Low Woods. The first title really blew me away, so of course, it was a tough act to follow. At first glance, The Dollhouse Family's vibe fits in well with the genre of this imprint. It has an evil supernatural entity, disturbing childhood memories, and an ultimate showdown with pure evil. That being said, I did not feel that the execution of the narrative was very strong. I really wanted to love this title, but in the end, there were a few key factors that prevented me from truly enjoying it: a lack of suspense and messy lore development.

When I read The Low, Low Woods, I was clamoring for each issue. I was attached to the 2 main characters and wanted them to succeed. With each issue, I became more afraid that one of them would die due to rising stakes. With The Dollhouse Family, I got about 3 issues in and sort of stopped caring about the characters. Suspense is evoked through stakes. What is the worst thing that could happen? If it does, can the main character still emerge triumphantly? Alice did not seem that interesting to me. I felt sad for her horrible childhood, but I found that she was a very flat character that was defined by her traumatic upbringing and daddy issues. Since I was not attached to Alice, I didn't see suspense in events that could have been more exciting.

My overall response to the lore in the story was a positive one. I wish I could get into it here, but it would spoil the entire book if I said much more than the fact that there is a mysterious entity in the dollhouse. The origins are a fun and creepy fresh take on a cursed object. The narrative shifts from Alice's present to the past of her ancestors. It is in this past that we can eventually understand the origins of the dollhouse. Again, the execution was a big problem for me. I don't know if I missed something, but there don't seem to be enough breadcrumbs in the flashbacks to make the ending not seem abrupt. For example, there is a cat that seems like it may have a larger role to play in the beginning, and then we don't see it again until the very end. The pacing of the lore was disjointed with the modern narrative and the past storylines did not play off each other as Alice learns more about the past, while it is being revealed to us as readers in the other panels.

In the end, The Dollhouse Family seems like a poor attempt to capture the magical, yet often horrific world of comics like Locke & Key. The plot is great "on paper" but the end result is weak and leaves this reader wondering what could have been.

For fans of: Coraline, cursed objects, and sketchy family history

Verdict: 2/5

This book in 1 GIF:

The Dollhouse Family

Writer: Mike Carey

Artists: Peter Gross & Vince Locke

159 pages

ISBN: 978-1-7795-0464-7

Published by: Hill House Comics

Publish date: October 13, 2020

Now available from these retailers:

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