Review: Playthings #1
Scout Comics is becoming a legitimate voice in the field of horror comics, and Playthings #1 is shaping up to be another great example of what the publisher is capable of. The new series, written by Jon Clark and illustrated by Travis Williamson (the team behind the amazing Black Friday), finds its scares in the realities of a broken family with shared custody problems. The mother figure ends up being the target of this story’s haunting, but the first issue is bizarre enough that it keeps things unpredictable. This is a good thing.
Playthings opens with bright, poppy colors juxtaposed with inky blacks and dark shades. Clown faces huddle around a woman tied to a chair, her hands (or something resembling hands) bound in licorice. As the woman surveys the room she’s in, a kind of anti-funhouse explodes around her. The woman realizes she’s somewhere that’s not entirely within the realm of reason, a place with a child-like sensibility and a whole lot of violence hanging over it.
The woman is revealed to be the mother of a small girl and it is made apparent quite quickly that she has a very strained relationship with her ex-husband. The girl’s birthday is coming up and a strange box has appeared out of thin air with a creepy clown doll inside it. As can be expected with anything clown-related, chaos unfolds in relentless fashion.
Clark and Williamson let the readers know that whatever’s coming after the clown is out of the box is going to be intricately disturbing. The setting and the characters all feel as if ripped straight out of a dark fairy tale, of the kind early Vertigo comics were known for. The story has a kind of 1990’s weird fiction vibe to it, especially in how it displays familial dysfunction early in the story to then transition into more terrifying things. It works well and it signals a very focused set of ideas that the creators are eager to get to as quickly as possible.
Williamson’s art style is perfect for the type of story Clark scripted out. It often reminds of Sam Keith’s own takes on the dark fairy tale aesthetic while also offering enough variation to make it its own. Clark also colors the comic and he adds a notable layer of story through his chosen color palette. Both creators showcase an appreciation for loud and discomforting imagery in Playthings and it makes the horrors they conjure up leave an impression.
The decision to go for a dark fairy tale-style of storytelling allows Clark and Williamson to keep their metaphors and messages at the fore. For Playthings, the focus is on divorce and the hells it can create when there’s a child involved. The mother, for instance, is presented as a tightly wound and angry person that lets her emotions spill unto her innocent kid. The trials of being a single parent are on full display and the haunting the toy clown is intent on making the mother sit through looks to be aimed at turning the scenario into a cautionary tale, the kind fairy tales are well-known for.
Playthings #1 should please fans of classic horror, fairy tales, and 1990s fantasy comics. It establishes a dark event with terrifying potential, full of painful promises that readers can engage with in more ways than one. Issue #2 should satisfy both readers with dark sensibilities and readers who quite simply enjoy a good story. Keep this one on your radar.
Story: Jon Clark Art: Travis Williamson Lettering: April Brown
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall 9.0
Recommendation: Read and look out for clown dolls that weren’t in the room with you before.
Purchase: Scout Comics