Saturday, May 9, 2009

House of Mystery, Volume 1: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham

From 1951 until 1983, DC Comics put out a horror anthology comic called House of Mystery. The series was one of many that felt the assault of the Comic Code Authority, and ended up being turned over to super hero stories for a while, before EC Comics veteran Joe Orlando came on board and took the series to its height. However, the sad fact of things is that comic anthologies just don't sell well, and so for over twenty years House of Mystery was not published.

All of this changed when Bill Willingham (of Fables fame, see my reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2) and Matthew Sturges restarted the series. This time around, a regular cast of characters inhabits the House of Mystery, and, being enterprising people, opened a bar. Some of them are trapped, and can't leave the House, and it is these people who run the bar. With money being of no value when you can't leave, the guests to the House pay with stories.

This concept works wonders. The characters in the frame story are intriguing and there is a lot of mystery surrounding who they are and why they are trapped. On top of that, each of the stories told gives a vast array of artists a chance to run wild, and some of the stories told are genuinely creepy (the first story told, "The Hollows," illustrated by Ross Campbell, was a very disturbing little tale indeed). A brief prologue with Cain and Abel alludes to the former series, and leaves the reader wondering if they will be tied into this new one.

All in all, this was a truly wonderful and gripping start to what I hope will be a long, long series. Look out for the second book, which will hit shelves this summer.


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