Reading SelfMadeHero comics for the past few years, I’ve had the good fortune to experience their preference for the weird and wonderful in sequential story-telling first-hand. None balanced the thin line between being as weird as it was wonderful as Rob Davis‘ The Motherless Oven, a coming-of-age adventure drama that read as if it was pieced together by Monty Python and Guillmero del Toro.
This freakish comic told the story of Scarper Lee’s routine of maintaining his self-constructed parents is thrown asunder as his looming deathday forces him to break away from this twisted normality. The comic ends on the kind of finale that leaves you yearning for more, not just because of how damn good it is, but of how the story itself comes to an abrupt halt. What a joy therefore to find that Davis has penned a sequel, The Can Opener’s Daughter. At least, half of it is a sequel, and the first half is something of a prequel, but in the tradition established by The Motherless Oven, it’s a prequel that twists and turns in unexpected directions, blossoming into everything a sequel should be.
Where The Motherless Oven focused on the drab, introspective Harper being forced into a life of turbulent adventure, The Can Opener’s Daughter throws us without warning into the life of Vera Pike, who’s every bit the opposite of Lee. This clash of character gives us one of The Can Opener’s Daughter key sources of enjoyment. Where The Motherless Oven drip-fed us intel on this tortured reality through the soft eyes of Harper, Vera’s spunky, inquisitive nature leads us down the rabbit hole in an execution of this comic’s world that’s more brash and bolder than what Harper could ever show us.
The world of this comic alone is worth exploring, even if there were no story attached to it. Akin to The Motherless Oven, Vera constructs her mother out of a weather clock, her childhood plagued by her very creation being illusive in her parental duties. The world might be the same as The Motherless Oven, but the difference in perspective gives us a deeper layer to this world that shows it really is as dangerous as it looks. Fans of The Motherless Oven will no doubt thrill in the subtle teases The Can Opener’s Daughter gives us regarding how this world came into existence, specifically how the children can exist before creating their ‘parents’. Again, this is made possible by Vera’s impulsive personality. It’s a real thrill to see her pry into her mother’s duties as the Prime Minister of Chance and uncover what exactly she gets up to.
From this first prequel-half of the comic, we venture where we left off as the consequences of Harper avoiding his deathday anyway he can grow monstrously into something that neither Harper, Vera or Castro could have foreseen. What then looks like it should really be two separate comics on paper fuse together into a cohesive whole thanks to Vera’s growth throughout the comic. Her drive to separate Harper from his routine drove The Motherless Oven to its thrilling conclusion, and her resilience against the world is once again on full display here, proving how The Can Opener’s Daughter is an extravagant, Gothic-flavoured exercise in brilliantly executed character arcs.
Once more however, what makes The Can Opener’s Daughter stand apart is the desperation on Vera’s part in the second half. She grows into a confident manipulator throughout the comic’s first half, but the second half, with the events of The Motherless Oven occurring in-between, sees the trio’s situation balloon into a death-defying chase that’s a fusion of Baby Driver and Just William.
My favourite aspect of The Can Opener’s Daughter might just be something that it actually doesn’t deliver, but rather teases. When we reach the comic’s blitzkrieg conclusion as Vera’s mother traps her, the stage is set for a final chapter that promises to be nothing short of world-changing for our endearingly hapless trio. I do hope Rob Davis has a third instalment in mind here, because I’m hooked on this world.
The Can Opener’s Daughter does everything that a good sequel should do – build on what works in the first chapter of the story without repeating it. Even if it may seem like The Can Opener’s Daughter appears content with being a Vera-version of The Motherless Oven, it tricks you into thinking this way. The Motherless Oven didn’t quite have the reckless sense of dark, limitless adventure that The Can Opener’s Daughter deservedly boasts. It’s too weird to not get engrossed in, too thrilling to avoid skipping pages, too tragic to not crush your heart.
The Can Opener’s Daughter can be found from SelfMadeHero. Are you a fan of Rob Davis’ weird and wonderful work? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!