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REVIEW: James Tynion’s Substack comic THE CLOSET shows some monsters move out of the house with you

The monster under your bed gets packed up too when you're moving out, along with your old comic collection.

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The Closet #1
Script: James Tynion IV
Art: Gavin Fullerton
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Letters: Tom Napolitano

James Tynion IV and Gavin Fullerton’s The Closet makes a strong argument for readers to look into Substack as an outlet for quality creator-owned comics. It’s a horror story that finds its scares in the simple things, in classic fears that remain as potent as ever. Among them is one that’s primal, universal even: the fear of a monster in your closet.

The Closet centers on a family that’s in the final stages of moving out of their apartment and into a house in Oregon. Thom (the dad) seemingly has a pretty strained relationship with Maggie (the mom), while their son Jamie is plagued by nightmares about monsters hiding in the darkest corners of his room (hint as to where: look at the book’s title).

Signs of relationship woes come to the fore to explain the reasons behind the move, and the nightmares that haunt Jamie stand to represent the animosity between the parents as it’s revealed the thing that visits the kid at night is not staying behind in the apartment. It’s packing itself up for the move and traveling with the family to Oregon to continue its haunting.

At face value, the metaphor seems to be quite clear. Escaping one’s problems is never a guarantee they won’t follow you to your next destination. The monsters we create in one place also have the capacity to tag along wherever we go. Have monster, will travel. Having read Tynion’s previous work, odds are this metaphor will grow into something deeper and darker. This is to say that those who stick with the comic for the duration will reap the rewards. Tynion’s stories find their best moments as the they get ripped open by their characters when least expected.

Tynion also knows how to create characters that embody emotional pain quite well. Those in The Closet are no different, which isn’t to say they’re clichéd or ‘run of the mill.’ Characterizations in this first issue alone are strong enough to make readers feel well acquainted with the family, to feel some of their pain. It’s easy to slip into the situation given how real it feels and how believable everything is.

Fullerton’s designs pick up on Tynion’s emotional cues and they result in a cast of characters that look and feel as if they could actually be your next-door neighbors. On top of that, Jamie’s monster is a beautifully disturbing creation that looks just like something a child would imagine with key details that push into more terrifying territory. Simplicity is key and, in this case, it produces quite a horrific creature.

The Closet is the kind of story that can convince people to sign up to a particular content provider, which is what Substack essentially is. Tynion and Fullerton have a comic that values pacing and patience when developing its horror. Its simplicity is deceptive and it harbors darker things that should make readers revisit, with some trepidation, those spaces in our rooms we always thought monsters used to hide in.

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