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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

The Motherless Oven


Writer: Rob Davis
Artist: Rob Davis
Publisher: Self Made Hero
RRP: £12.99, US $19.95, Cdn $21.95
ISBN: 978 1 906838 81 2
162 pages
Publication Date: 16 October 2014

In Scarper Lee's world parents don't make children - children make parents. Scarper's father is his pride and joy, a wind-powered brass construction with a billowing sail. His mother is a Bakelite hairdryer. In this world, it rains knives and household appliances have souls. There are no birthdays - only deathdays. Scarper knows he has just three weeks to live. As his deathday approaches, he is forced from his routine and strikes out into the unknown - where friendships are tested and authority challenged...

The Motherless Oven is a rather bizarre graphic novel that at its heart is a light-hearted coming of age tale set in a twisted alternate reality. In this world parents are constructed by their children from metal, paper... just about any material available. Children grow up knowing the exact date, but not circumstances, of their impending death. The weather can be dangerous, as it rains knives; being late for school or staying in the playground means you run the risk of being attacked by the school lions; and kitchen appliances, known as "gods" have souls.

Scarper Lee has long accepted that his, rather unfair, deathday is earlier than everyone else's... with only a few weeks left he planned on seeing out his final days peacefully, that is until a new girl joins the school. Vera Pike is a weird young woman who has a rather odd agenda... what that agenda is will soon become clear to Scarper.

Vera, Scarper, and special needs pupil Castro Smith, break out of school to find Scarper's dad - who after years of being chained up in his shed, and polished regularly, has suddenly disappeared. But being out of school is against the law... and the police (an ageing collection of human-style terminators in mobility scooter-esque police cars) won't stop until they've caught the young law breakers.

There are obvious holes in the plot, like if everyone knows there deathday, why are they worried about little things like being killed by the school's playground lions? And, if everyone creates their parents, are babies looked after by some organisation until they are capable of creating their parents (who then fuss over them like the parents we can relate to from our reality).

It's original and engaging, but be warned, those looking for a nice comfortable, read should look elsewhere. Nothing is familiar about this tale - even the ending flies in the face of convention.


Darren Rea

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