20 December 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Houses of Mystery and Secrets, Part IX: House of Mystery: Room & Boredom

Comic trade paperback, 123 pages
Published 2008
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2013
House of Mystery: Room & Boredom

Writers: Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham
Artist: Luca Rossi
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein
Short Story Artists: Ross Campbell, Jill Thompson, Zachary Baldus, Steve Rolston, Sean Murphy
Short Story Colorist: Dave McCaig

The modern House of Mystery is a little more cohesive than the one of old; each issue includes two parts. The first is the next installment in an ongoing tale by Matthew Sturges, while the second is a story told by the character in that tale by Bill Willigham, nestled within.

This is indeed the House of Mystery that used to belong to Cain and reside next to a cemetery within the Dreaming, but exactly where it is now is one of the ongoing mysteries; all we know for certain is that Cain has lost his house. The House of Mystery now serves as a bar where various people pop in and out and tell stories in exchange for drink, only there are five people or so who can never leave-- they're trapped there, running the bar. Architecture student Fig Keele is the newest of these, and she serves as our viewpoint character, trying to figure out how she ended up in a house she dreams about every night.

This early on, there's not a lot of story yet, mostly a number of mysteries, so I look forward to seeing how things unfold. Fig is a good protagonist, seemingly innocent, but clearly with some mysteries and depths of her own. I love that she used to be the protagonist of a YA adventure series; it's very "Dreaming" yet not a thing Gaiman actually did in The Sandman. The art of Luca Rossi is fantastic-- scratchy yet simple, and he's a dab hand with both facial expressions and supernatural horrors. It's not the lush, decadent pencils of past House of Mystery artists, but it really works here. And, of course, no story colored by Lee Loughridge could ever be anything less than brilliant.

The stories nestled within are good fun, too. Willigham uses some good tricks with narration that doesn't reflect the horror of the actual story, especially in the tale of a southern belle's marriage to a giant fly in "The Hollows" (art by Sean Murphy). My favorite was probably "Familiar" (art by Steve Rolston), about a princess exiled to our dimension who decides to abandon her responsibilities and just have consequences-free sex. This way of included tales from others is reminiscent of the early issues of The House of Mystery where Cain would relate tales of old residents of the House, but gives the concept a nice new spin.

Not a lot happens in this volume, but I'm interested in seeing where it goes next.

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