24 February 2014

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Houses of Mystery and Secrets, Part XIII: House of Mystery: Under New Management

Comic trade paperback, 127 pages
Published 2011 (contents: 2010)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2014
House of Mystery: Under New Management

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artists: Luca Rossi, José Marzán, Jr.
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein
Short Story Writers: Bill Willingham, David Justus, Paul Levitz, Alisa Kwitney
Short Story Artists: Sergio Aragonés, Farel Dalrymple, Sam Kieth, John Bolton

The beginning of this volume establishes the new status quo for House of Mystery: the House is continuing to serve as a bar, now located in the Stormfront Itinerant Bazaar (a.k.a. "Goblin Market"), and it's jointly managed by Cain, its caretaker of old, and Fig Keele. Now, quite why Cain and Fig can/are doing this is something I still don't get, but at least the what is a lot more comprehensible these days. Also, the addition of Cain to the main cast means the presence of Abel-- huzzah! (I always liked him more.)

This volume has a more discrete plot than previous ones: Fig's heretofore unknown brother Strawberry makes his way to the House. Heretofore unknown even to her. It's a good mix of clever and disturbing, and there are some interesting wrinkles in this plotline. We're also starting to get a glimpse of the scale of Fig's powers. Things move a bit too slowly as always, though.

The short stories are still good value for money: Sergio Aragonés returns to the series he helped define back in the 1970s, and how could you not like "Fig and Strawberry's Adventure in the Cloud Kingdom"? I was particularly charmed by Matthew Sturges and John Bolton's "Romantic Comedy (With Corpses)," an ironically-narrated indie romance film about vampires.

The best part of this book, though, is its final issue, a standalone called "Exquisite Corpse." The whole thing is illustrated by the inimitable Luca Rossi and José Marzán, Jr., but it's written in five different parts by five different writers-- Bill Willingham, Dave Justus, Paul Levitz, Alisa Kwitney, and Matthew Sturges-- in what I assume was the exquisite corpse style. It's funny and inventive and increasingly absurd, and includes some welcome cameos by old Dreaming favorites; one of the best parts of the series as a whole.

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