Comic: "House Of Mystery Halloween Annual #1"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Various
Plot: Fig finds a strange mask in the House of Mystery while preparing for a costume party that sticks to her face and shows her visions of other lives it has touched.
Review: Unlike the piece of shit horror anthology I reviewed last week, the House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1 doesn't try to bite off way more than it can chew. Featuring five stories instead of an absurd thirteen, this annual ties other Vertigo series' characters together by virtue of a mysterious creepy mask that keeps getting bounced around from one situation to another. The stories are framed by a House of Mystery story, which only makes sense, as that entire book is about stories within the main story. The prisoners of the House are looking for costumes to wear for a Halloween party, and Fig tries on a mask that sticks to her face and shows her visions of other lives.
The first life she witnesses is that of Merv Pumpkinhead, in an amusing short tale by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham. It's great to see classic characters from the early Vertigo days represented rather than just the new series. Speaking of classic characters, the next story is about John Constantine and how yet another person got screwed over just by virtue of knowing him. The current creative team of Peter Milligan and Giuseppe Camuncoli keep the story consistent with the current feel over in the Hellblazer book, and they tie it to recent events by featuring the Babylonian demon Julian who recently fell in love with Constantine.
After that we get a preview of the new Chris Roberson/Mike Allred book I, Zombie, which looks like it could be fun, though we only get a very basic taste here. And finally, a Madame Xanadu story by Matt Wagner and Amy Hadley, where the titular character saves a teenage girl from the nightmarish visions the mask was forcing upon her.
Some of the stories tie the mask in better than others, but at least the mask provides some sort of connection that makes it feel like a classic horror anthology--otherwise it would all come across as pointless and random, much like the previous anthology I reviewed. Also, by having fewer stories, they're able to flesh out their characters and situations slightly more--sure, if you're not already familiar with these characters from their respective books, you're not going to get much out of spending six pages with them, but it feels like you're getting a real (albeit very brief) story.
If you enjoy House of Mystery or any of these other Vertigo titles, you will probably enjoy this book. Otherwise, there's not much for you here, but I doubt you would find it painful to read. It's not going to be memorable years down the road when you're going through your House of Mystery trades, but for now it's certainly entertaining enough.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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