House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1
It’s a good old-fashioned Halloween jam book! With the framing story focusing on the main characters in the “House of Mystery” comic from Vertigo, we get introduced to a particularly nasty Halloween mask (That’s it pictured on the cover above). In fact, all of the stories here feature the mask. Oh, what are the other stories? We join Merv Pumpkinhead, the jack-o-lantern-faced handyman from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics, as he helps lubricate the Dreaming’s nightmare monsters with some generously shared booze. We see John Constantine show up just a little too late to chase off a Babylonian shapeshifter. We get a short preview of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s upcoming “I, Zombie!” comic. And we follow Madame Xanadu as she helps someone escape the seductive grasp of the mask.
Verdict: Thumbs up. I didn’t see a single story in here I disliked, and it’s a nice little introduction to all of these Vertigo series, if you haven’t tried them out yet. And the little boost of the Halloween spirit doesn’t hurt either. Go pick it up.
North 40 #4
The high school prom has been invaded by zombies! Luckily, after the bizarre magical plague that’s struck rural Conover County, the victims here are actually a lot better prepared to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the local criminal redneck clan is hoping to ambush Sheriff Morgan — if the junkyard owner’s new giant magic-powered robot doesn’t kill all of them first. So the initial crises are over — but there’s more trouble climbing out of the craters around town…
Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve enjoyed this whole series, and though this is officially the last issue of the miniseries, I like how they’re setting us up for a new ongoing series. Ya hear, Wildstorm? This one needs a new ongoing series quick! Hop to it — we got too many dangling plotlines that I need to see wrapped up!
Beasts of Burden #2
The pets of Burden Hill has undergone some of their training to help defend the area from supernatural threats. They’ve managed to get rid of a few local monsters, but a lot of their time is taken up listening to the far-too-imaginative tales invented by other dogs. But they find something legitimate to investigate when a worried dog named Hazel asks them to find her two lost puppies. Their search turns up nothing until some garbage-scavenging raccoons suggest they check out a pond called the Devil’s Well out in the woods. They attempt a spirit summoning and are surprised when the ghosts of the puppies emerge from the pond, followed by the angry ghosts of dozens of other dogs and cats. The ghosts possess three of the dogs who had unwisely left the protection of the magic circle — and all three of them charge into a home and kill a human boy! Even without the murderous ghosts, all the Beasts of Burden are going to be in big trouble now…
Verdict: Thumbs up. Evan Dorkin’s writing is both funny and suspenseful, and Jill Thompson’s art is gorgeous and terrifying all at once. The whole story is extremely spooky, creepy, eerie, and even heartbreaking. The twist is unexpected and brutal. It’s a perfect Halloween ghost story, and you should go find it and read it — I think you’ll enjoy it.
And one final note — make sure you’re here bright and early tomorrow morning. Halloween’s coming, and I got a week’s worth of special treats to hand out.