Rob Davis graphic novel The Motherless Oven is a twisted and surreal fantasy perfectly formed over nearly 200 pages of excellent black and white artwork all of which I consumed in one sitting even though as the title suggests this is only supposed to be 100 Pages of Horror.
Set in an alternate world where children make their parents the anti-hero of the tale is Scarper Lee a teenager who spends his days at school avoiding the playground lions and his evenings safe from the Knife storms looking after his wind-powered brass behemoth of a father which he keeps locked in the shed for safe keeping.
Fussed over by his Bakelite hairdryer mother Scarper is three weeks away from his deathday not that he is bothered by it, that’s just the way the world works. That is until new girl Vera Pike appears and turns his and everyone else’s world upside down by breaking all the rules and refusing to accept life as they all know it.
Dragging along fellow pupil Castro an engineering wiz with special needs the trio run away from their homes and school on a hunt for Scarper’s dad who has disappeared without a trace.
Soon they are face to face with the outside world in all its absurd and unusual glory on a quest that could uncover far more than where Scarper’s father has gone leading them to the Motherless Oven where all parents and children are supposed to be created.
As a big fan of many of publisher SelfMadeHero’s titles The Motherless Oven didn’t disappoint reminding me of the equally surreal and edgy Klaxon that threw its reader into a weird world and let them try to understand it.
This is a brave feat and author and illustrator Rob Davis more than succeeds in drawing you in with very little explanation providing enough familiarity in amongst the chaos and confusion to gain a connection with the characters that really pays off.
There are tons of interesting and innovative ideas packed into the story many of which you can see as comments or critics of popular culture and society and some that stand alone as obscure inventions from Rob Davis’s magnificent mind.
Beginning by self-publishing his own comic, the highly experimental SLANG, in 1989 Davis was employed by Fleetway to reinvent British comics’ icon Roy of the Rovers. Illustrating for newspapers including The Guardian and children’s book publishers including Scholastic he then worked on the equally quintessentially English Judge Dredd and wrote and drew a Doctor Who comic for Panini.
The Motherless Oven is also very British from the modish stylings of Scarper and his pals to the obsession with tea and the latest bands who race their Dad’s after dark the book is peppered with pieces of English history, fashion and pop culture except all off kilter and reimagined within the fantastic and often fear filled world the heroes inhabit.
A cracking read for fans of comics darker and stranger than the norm the book is made all the better by the fact that its sequel called The Can Opener’s Daughter (which we will be reviewing very soon) is already out carrying on Scarper’s story and delving further into the weird and wonderful world Rob Davis has created.
The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis is out now published by SelfMadeHero and available now at Amazon and Forbidden Planet as well as other online retailers. You can read the back catalogue of our book reviews by following this link http://lovehorror.co.uk/?s=100+pages+of+horror and look out for The Can Opener’s Daughter on 100 Pages of Horror.