Originally published at Bloody Disgusting on September 27, 2012
Wickedly uncompromising and brutally candid, The Milkman Murders is a hard-hitting tale about the dark side of modern suburban life. The shock value alone on the first few pages is a real eye-opener to the world of real life terror. Now available as a hardcover edition, this new publication of the infamous 2005 horror miniseries proves it stands the test of time.
Written By: Joe Casey
Art By: Steve Parkhouse
Publisher: Image Comics Price: $14. 99
Release: September 26th, 2012
On the surface, neighbors seem to think the Vale family is comfortably quiet and boringly settled down. Casey’s infuses the book with the idea that no one in has any idea what exactly occurs behind closed doors. Mild-mannered housewife, Barbara Vale, has finally hit her breaking point, after carrying on with the entire family’s dark secrets. Nothing will ever be the same in suburbia after Barbara unleashes her inner rage. Not even her own family is safe when Barbara is consumed with bloodlust.
Even though Joe Casey’s viewpoint on the American household is a fascinating depiction, this is a difficult story to get into. When readers are introduced to the Vale family, they are presented as such an unlikable group. None of the family members have a redeemable qualities. After reading the opening chapter, I was thinking, “Why should I read a story about these bunch of losers?” While Casey is making an incredibly gutsy move by presenting the main protagonist in an unflattering light, the writer is unabashed in presenting such a series topic. It is asking a lot from readers to take a journey with these unpleasant characters, but the end result is absolutely intriguing.
Casey’s running social commentary focuses on the deconstruction of the American suburban nuclear family. After realizing she has failed in her hopes and dreams, a brutal incident finally pushes Barbara Vale toward a self-destructive path. Because of what television has told her, she expected the manicured lawns, a loving family, and a well-kept home. Casey incorporates the notion of television and the American Dream throughout the story to give it a bit of a surreal, paranormal tone without venturing too far into that realm. The housewife from the TV show Barbara watches eventually worms her way into Barbara’s mind, becoming an ephemeral manifestation that gives Barbara the extra push she needs to go insane. With the facade breaking down in front of her, Barbara has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. Readers are given a twisted coming-of age tale that slowly becomes a rape-revenge story.
In Steve Parkhouse’s artwork, the faces of the characters are exaggerated and ugly to match Casey’s plot. Keeping in tune with the themes of television and paranoia, Parkhouse offers a satirical take on Leave It To Beaver throughout the narrative. The interiors of the suburban homes are always kept in a bright and colorful palette. The illustrations, though not typical for a “horror” story, deliver a scary and moody world.
The gritty violence is unflinching and disturbingly realistic. Parkhouse wants you to see the spousal abuse Barbara suffers through. Because the violent behavior is depicted visually, the painful suffering Barbara is going through allows readers to understand her mentality. This isn’t a cry for help, but a point of no return. Through close-ups and medium shots, Parkhouse finds ways to tell the readers that Barbara is slowly losing her mind, as well as her very soul.
“The Milkman Murders” is quite possibly one of the most compelling horror comics you will ever find. Readers will be sinking into the psychological terror that lurks within these pages. With a thought-provoking social message that is very loud and clear, “The Milkman Murders” delivers a poignant and satiric take on the American nuclear family.