I can’t decide if The Closet is a story about a monster in a closet, the story of an emotional fuckup struggling with adulthood and parenthood, or an allegory about a child feeling that distance from their parent.
I suppose it’s all three.
With its second issue out this week, The Closet works in a way that I rarely see comic books work, which is to say that it works a little like literary short fiction. Particularly, the American short fiction that sprang from Hemingway’s famous Iceberg Theory, in which the action we see does not fully encapsulate the larger, more complex, and powerful story just beneath the surface.
One would expect that the tip of that iceberg would be the eponymous Closet, and all the horror trappings with which the book is packaged and sold, but in reality, the looming iceberg beneath is something more universally relatable: a very human, adult fear of dissolving relationships, paired with a fear of not being who you’re meant to be.
For those of you who thought we were here to talk about a comic book about the monster in the closet, we absolutely are. However, the domestic drama is the bulk of the story; the Closet only presents itself in (literally) silent spaces of the story, at the edges of things, below the notice of an adult. The kid in our story, Jamie, exists in the cold dark surrounding his parents’ unhappy marriage. The monster—and the trans-dimensional closet from which it springs—can only prey on Jamie because he (quite against his will) is left alone, shunted away.
The sorrow at the heart of Bad Dad Thom’s rocky marriage hasn’t been diagnosed, but potential infidelity is heavily alluded to. He doesn’t feel his own toxicity, to his family and this issue’s friend, Mack, because it’s this rough faithless bruise on the skin of Thom’s adulthood from which his spiraling insecurities and troubles spring. He isn’t a good dad because he isn’t a good husband, and because he is neither he is also a bad person. His belief that some big change–this move across the country–will somehow provide a change in himself is ill-founded and wrong-headed. Which doesn’t mean we wouldn’t want to believe it, ourselves. Good fiction convinces us our own misdoings are universal.
The literary trappings and narrative mechanics of the book are such that though the reader is anticipating some gruesome fate to befall poor Jamie, they are also rooted in the mundane sorrows of this feckless, ineffective man. The two tragedies seem at odds, separate from one another, but the framing insists to the reader that they are not. To understand Jamie’s horror is to understand his father’s failure to be present for it.
That The Closet #2 is the mid-point of this complicated story is jarring to realize. There’s too much to wrap up with only one issue left; like any great piece of literary short fiction, however, it isn’t the conclusion that matters. Instead, it’s what that conclusion refuses to reveal to you.
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