Comic: "House Of Mystery #1-5"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham
Artist: Various

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 9/7/2008

Plot: A woman named Fig finds herself trapped in a bizarre but all-too-familiar house that serves as a tavern for people from all dimensions and worlds, where the only form of currency is trading stories. For an unknown reason, she and four other people alone are trapped in the house, unable to leave.

Review: This is the first honest-to-god new horror book that I've seen come out of Vertigo in some time, and it's really refreshing to see a new House of Mystery series that gets back to its horror roots of the 1950s. Rather than being a straight-up story anthology like its predecessors however, this series is constructed rather cleverly, in that there is a larger meta-story that holds everything together, and in each individual issue another patron of the House of Mystery tavern tells their story for the rest of the customers to hear.

These stories within the larger story, while not always strictly horror, are often fucked up and disturbing in some way or another. The first issue's story was so horrific and fucked up that I honestly felt sick to my stomach as I read it. A lot of the credit to that goes to artist Ross Campbell's visceral style that was perfectly suited to the disgusting nature of the story, the details of which I will refrain from getting into here so as not to spoil it.

Each of the individual short stories is done by a different artist to give them all a unique feel, while the main narrative art is done by Luca Rossi, whose work I am unfamiliar with but is perfectly suited to a book with this kind of eerie feel. The book lives up to its name, in that after the first story arc we only sort of know why these characters are trapped in the house (while everyone else can leave), and we still don't know why our protagonist Fig is being pursued by creepy floating people, or why one of the trapped members of the house is periodically chosen to leave under the escort of the enigmatic and creepy Coachman.

When I first heard about this series, I figured it was doomed to a short life, as most anthology series are, being unable to maintain a steady level of quality by the very nature of collecting stories of disparate styles and sources, but I'm pleased to report that this series is far more compelling than I would have given it credit for. I think a lot of the reason for that is that you only have two writers working together on the book, and the editorial team has a good eye for finding artists whose style matches the tone of the material.

Having only just released the fifth issue, it's still plenty early for new readers to jump aboard and follow this one monthly. Based on what I've seen so far, this series has the potential for a long and interesting life ahead of it, and you can bet that I'll be following it every step of the way.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Sep 8th, 2008, 04:26 PM
Maybe his is the perfect moment for me to go out and look for some quality comics to begin my habit of reading them again.
The Power of Grayskull
Sep 8th, 2008, 06:11 PM
It does sound very compelling and I've always looked for a good excuse to pick up some serious comic books (graphic novels? What's the respectful term?).
Forum Virgin
Sep 8th, 2008, 11:19 PM
Did anybody ever read that horror anthology called Flinch Vertigo put out awhile back? I'm kinda curious as to if it was any good.
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Sep 9th, 2008, 01:17 PM
I love anthologies. This is the stuff I look for in comic books, something not too linear and completely devoid of bizarro worlds, infinite crises, and all those idiotic last ditch shark jumping plot twists.
Sep 9th, 2008, 06:18 PM
I had no idea that this series was out. I think I'll have to run down to the comic shop and pick it up.
The Goddamned Batman
Sep 10th, 2008, 12:07 AM
Yeah, this is definitely a good new Vertigo series to jump into, guys. And it's still early enough to get in on a good thing at the ground floor.

And Huh!?, I'm afraid I never did read Flinch so I can't vouch for its quality.
Official Punching Bag
Sep 10th, 2008, 08:57 AM
I really want to check this one out, but I doubt I'll be able to until the first trade comes out.
Space Cowboy
Sep 12th, 2008, 04:12 AM
Is this based on the Sandman comic at all?

I clearly remember a tavern that a character was using for refuge from a weird storm, full of denizens of various dimensions, and them all trading stories.

I'll definitely have to look this up next time I'm at the comic book store.
Space Viking Repo Man
Sep 27th, 2008, 09:24 AM
Man, just as I was getting my DC Horror Comic fix from the Showcase Presents reprints. I'll have to scan this later.
The Goddamned Batman
Sep 27th, 2008, 11:09 AM
Originally Posted by Ozzie View Post
Is this based on the Sandman comic at all?

I clearly remember a tavern that a character was using for refuge from a weird storm, full of denizens of various dimensions, and them all trading stories.

I'll definitely have to look this up next time I'm at the comic book store.
Yeah, the World's End Tavern. I remember that Sandman arc said there were several "Free Houses" like that out there, so this could be one of them. It doesn't appear to be related to Cain's House of Mystery in the Dreaming either so far, but there might be a connection revealed later.