14 February 2014

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Houses of Mystery and Secrets, Part XII: House of Mystery: The Beauty of Decay

Comic trade paperback, 160 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 2009-10)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2014
House of Mystery: The Beauty of Decay

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artists: Luca Rossi, Werther Dell'Edera, José Marzán, Jr., Andrew Pepoy, Joe Rubinstein
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein
Short Story Writers: Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matt Wagner
Short Story Artists: Richard Corben, Al Davison, Jeff Lemire, Antonio Fuso, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Michael Allred, Amy Reeder Hadley, Kevin Nowlan, Stefano Landini, Richard Friend
Short Story Colorists: Dave McCaig, Laura Allred, Guy Major
Short Story Letterers: Sal Cipriano, Jared K. Fletcher

About a month (for me) passed between this and the previous volume of House of Mystery, and I was pretty confused. I can't imagine what it was like to read these collections as they came out! Sturges takes very little effort to remind us who the characters are, where they came from, what they want, or anything really. In this volume, the status quo changes a lot... but I hadn't even gotten used to the last one! Now the House is in an abandoned city or something? And there's ghosts? And the Administrator, the Conception, and Cain all have competing plans? And Fig's dad is still up to no good? But somehow Fig strikes a deal? I don't know; the metaplot here is vague and uninteresting. Either it can't be followed, or I just don't care to follow it.

A lot of good interspersed short stories, though: "The Hounds of Titus Roan" is pretty harrowing, while it's nice to get some background on poet. And, fantasically, the cockroach Brutus seen in his youthful prime two volumes back has already passed into legend and song:
"That was some story. Do you think it's true?"
"That there was a day weeks and weeks ago when garbage was scarce? Naw. That's just one of Grandpa's silly stories."
"Spellbound," about the dangers of reading, was probably my favorite: lush Michael Wm. Kaluta artwork.

The best part of this volume is the Halloween-themed story in the back, set at an earlier point in the series history, before the House was launched into the Space Between. Fig finds a creepy mask in the House, and we see the mask on many earlier Halloween nights: discarded by Merv Pumpkinhead in the Dreaming, ruining the life of John Constantine's friend, hiding a sadistic killer from a zombie, derailing the life of a child that Madame Xanadu must save. They're nice, creepy snippets of other series, other worlds, with good art and distinctive voices. If only the House of Mystery had maintained this fruitful status quo for longer.

Plus, you know, Merv-- still the third-best Sandman character.

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