BOOK REVIEW: THE MOTHERLESS OVEN / CREATOR: ROB DAVIS / PUBLISHER: SELFMADEHERO / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 16TH
"Parents should just get recycled when kids grow up. They've served their purpose."
Rob Davis, best known in the UK for is dazzling graphic novel adaptations of Don Quixote and '90s reinvention of Roy of the Rovers, has created his first original graphic novel for SelfMadeHero, and it was definitely worth the wait. Tackling timeless coming-of-age themes in a dark, endlessly inventive way, The Motherless Oven somehow manages to be dense, inscrutable and perversely accessible.
Scarper Lee lives in a world where it rains knives, where household objects have varying levels of sentience and autonomy, and where everybody knows their own deathday. Children construct their own parents and strive to find meaning despite the lions that patrol the playgrounds and the endless chitter-chatter of household gods.
After years of disciplined adaptations and work-for-hire, Davis reveals himself here to be fiercely, maddeningly inventive, creating weather clocks and laughing gales, scrap yards for dead parents, and a complex world of god science and shrines for household objects. The meanings inherent in these creations are sometimes obtuse and sometimes more clear. At all times, The Motherless Oven depicts an adolescence that feels familiar and somehow universal.
The Motherless Oven is a book that transcends genre. Despite the fantastical imagery and almost dystopian levels of control exercised over teenagers in the book by the police and school system, this never feels like sci-fi, horror, nor any other clearly defined genre. The relationship between Scarper Lee and Vera Pike - the new girl at school - as Scarper counts down the hours to his deathday is more important than the visual trappings of this bizarre world. The relationships are rich and believable and at heart, the plot is relatively straightforward, even when the symbolism and meaning behind it all builds to crescendo at the end of the book.
Ultimately, this is a story about identity; about growing up; about formative relationships, and existential questions. This is a dark, scary story about the world as perceived by a misanthropic teenage boy, in whom it is impossible not to interpret the youthful questioning of Davis himself.
Whether you choose to read it as an allegorical tale about questioning authority and defining yourself through art, as an autobiographical tale of the creator's teenage years, or as something else completely, The Motherless Oven is a brilliant graphic novel that you will never forget.