SCARENTHOOD #1 Is ‘Stranger Things’ For Grown-Ups

IDW’s new suburban horror series brings together four ghost-hunting parents whose deepest fears aren’t about their own safety.

If you were in life-threatening danger right now, would you be thinking about yourself, or about your loved ones? That’s the burning question of Scarenthood #1, a new horror comic series from IDW Publishing. Scarenthood takes the suburban naturalism and supernatural frights of Netflix hit Stranger Things but shifts the focus from kids who hunt monsters after school to parents hunting monsters while their kids are in class. The result is a story that’s far more mature and suspenseful than most.

Scarenthood is a four-issue miniseries that comes from writer/artist Nick Roche (Avengers: Back To BasicsTransformers: Sins of the Wreckers), color artist Chris O’Halloran (Ice Cream ManX-Men: Marvels Snapshots #1), and letterer Shawn Lee (Joe Hill’s The CapeMadman Quarter Century Shindig).

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The story is set in a cheerfully typical neighborhood of writer/artist Roche’s native Ireland: Cormac, the main character, sends his daughter to the “Little Pixies” Montessori preschool, where he exchanges bristling small talk with gray-haired conspiracy theorist Flynno, exhausted stay-at-home mom Jen, and snarky cut-up Sinead. The first issue sets up these four parents getting just bored enough to entertain Flynno’s dark tall tale about dead boys and “the divil”, only to approach the verge of something both real and impossible.

The uneasy, proximity-based alliance of the four adults is Scarenthood‘s secondary relationship. The heart of the story is Cormac’s efforts to father his toddling child Scooper, a bright-eyed girl with problems that are at once too small and too big for a single work-at-home dad to handle. Roche has put forward in interviews that the series had been inspired by becoming a parent to his own seven-year-old; the writing here is unmistakably from experience, a tangled but loving domestic life that sells the reader completely on the understanding that Scooper is Cormac’s entire world.

And it’s the effectiveness of that bond on the page that makes the horror of the book so effective. When Cormac is first threatened by the forces at play in the world of Scarenthood, the injury he suffers isn’t a physical or psychological injury, but a loss of time, a ten-hour unexplained absence from the world. In an instant, he’s drenched with missed calls, frantic voicemails, and worst of all, his daughter’s anguish about her missing dad. This is a rare horror story that hinges on adult fears; the teetering weight of obligations and delicate emotional bonds hit harder than any monster attack.

That’s not to say that Scarenthood doesn’t offer the promise of the more traditionally creepy side of horror comics. Roche’s stylized character designs make the supernatural elements hit hard when contrasted against their hapless victims. O’Halloran is bringing the alternating-sunny-and-eerie colors from Ice Cream Man to a new venue.

In a nutshell, Scarenthood is a closely targeted stab at the heart of a specific sort of person. If you watched Stranger Things and identified more with Will’s struggling single mom than any of his friends, this book is for you. At the same time, the emotional stakes are so well-realized that the story hits home even if the reader hasn’t been through Cormac’s specific situation. The first issue also comes packed with mysteries, both of the otherworldly kind and the very personal, that serve as enticing hooks to stay on board. (What about Scooper’s mom?) The issue ends with a peek at Scarenthood #2‘s main cover: a lone stroller in winter woods, unattended, empty. Scarenthood lives in the chill that image leaves behind.

IDW Publishing’s Scarenthood #1 releases at local comics shops and Comixology now!

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Updated: November 11, 2020 — 2:17 pm

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