Archive for House of Mystery

Pre-Halloween Spooks and Scares

I know it’s still pretty early, but we’ve already got a few special Halloween comics to review for ya — let’s see what’s on the list…

House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2

It’s the second installment of the special Halloween issues of Vertigo’s “House of Mystery.” Like last year, we get a grab-bag of stories about various Vertigo stars — this year, the element that binds all the stories together is a bunch of cursed trick-or-treaters. Doomed to wander endlessly from one Halloween to another, begging for candy and making mischief, all while wearing bodies both elderly and kid-sized, they turn up at the House of Mystery, get invited in, and offered a way out from under their curse, which they choose not to accept. In other eras and other worlds, they run across Madame Xanadu, who offers them visions of happier childhoods; they prompt John Constantine to reminisce about childhood holidays and first loves; they play pranks on Gwen Dylan from “iZombie” back in the days when she was still alive; and they end up running around Lucifer’s Hell.

Verdict: Thumbs up. First, I love any comic that literally begins their story on the front cover. Aside from that, the stories are first-rate, fun, and spooky — and they serve as excellent advertisements for several Vertigo comics. So it’s a winner — go pick it up.

Marvel Super Hero Squad #10

It’s Halloween, and the Super Hero Squad is dressing up for the holiday — Iron Man is Dracula, the Silver Surver is Frankenstein’s Monster, Reptil is Werewolf by Night, Falcon is Brother Voodoo, Thor and Hulk both want to be the Living Mummy, and Wolverine doesn’t dress in costumes. Dr. Doom’s lackeys, meanwhile, don’t get to dress up — they’ve just been ordered to go find a new fractal. Once the Super Hero Squad gets in on the chase, they quickly find the fractal being guarded by the Man-Thing! All who know fear burn at the touch of the Man-Thing — and the Man-Thing is plenty darn scary! Can the heroes get the fractal away from the muck-monster? In the followup stories, all the superheroes show up for a costume party at the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building — but there’s an imposter hiding among the disguised heroes! And finally, Dr. Doom amuses himself by terrifying trick-or-treaters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good, funny stuff, and it’s a lot of fun to see all the Halloween costumes devised for the characters.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #3

The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is distracted by the bizarre destruction of Houston, Texas — by a full-sized volcano! Is this going to give Panya the opportunity to take over the whole agency? Meanwhile, Abe Sapien and Ben Daimio are in British Columbia trying to solve the mystery of what caused everyone in a small town to disappear. They meet a woman with an unusually ominous baby — and are quickly attacked by a monster! Can they stop the monster’s rampage and make their escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding action in this one. And it’s great to see Ben Daimio pulling off the giant-monster whupass again.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I would like to write about this a heck of a lot more, but I’m not sure I can be really coherent or non-sweary about it right now. Suffice it to say, I think “The 99,” the incredibly cool series by Naif Al-Mutawa, is a wonderful thing, and it frustrates the heck out of me that the usual gang of small-minded bigots are latching onto this as the latest ZOMG FEAR item.
  • Venom + props = awesome sketchbooks.
  • Any of you serious bibliophiles are gonna love this article.
  • Privilege is inescapable, but things would be a lot better if we had more people willing to embrace a little empathy.

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Monster Masks


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.

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Houses of the Unholy


House of Mystery #5

This one’s a bit all over the map. We get a bio of Fig’s life, from childhood literary hero to mystical Teen Detective to failed architect. We get the House’s permanent residents trying to survive as the House begins to collapse on itself. We get a spotlight story where boring old Jordan tells a boring story about his boring life fighting giant spiders, vampire cats, fire-breathing dragons, and elder gods. We also get what seems to be a resolution to the first storyarc, though I can’t really tell if it’s completed or just carrying over to another new arc.

Verdict: Thumbs up, with some pretty strong reservations. I loved Jordan’s story, which shoehorns tons of weird, bizarre, fantastical stuff into a seemingly mundane story. I love Fig’s autobiography, which twists and turns all over the place, from happiness to ongoing tragedy. I was really not at all interested in the overarching story about the House trying to destroy itself. And I didn’t like the ending at all — I expect a little vagueness in good dark fantasy, but this was simply too vague for me to really figure out what happened.


Necronomicon #1

This one’s pretty fun. We follow the story of a Arabic student named Henry Said who’s attending the infamous Miskatonic University in the 1920s. He’s good with languages, so a mysterious group of university patrons hire him to translate the dreaded Necronomicon into English. But something sinister is going on? Why is Henry being followed? Why does the university librarian act so strange? Who are the monstrous figures who try to steal the Necronomicon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent Lovecraftian fun. Henry is a fun character, naively learning about the Western world and the occult horrors around him. His small circle of friends are entertaining, too. And the eldritch horror elements are nicely handled, too. No mind-bending gods rising from the sea, at least not yet — things start out slow and creepy before building up to what seems to be a horrific climax — but this is just the first issue, and there are certainly worse things than decomposing zombies and bug-faced kidnappers on the way soon…

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Local Man, Delirious from Heatstroke, Writes about Blood-Drenched Mass Murder in Horror Comics. Film at 11.

Whooo dawg, the apartment is still cookin’ like an oven, and I feel like I been wrung out like a rag. The A/C is still dead, and taking cold showers and sleeping under fans didn’t really help me stay cool or sleep very well. So I don’t feel like reviewing any comics where happy things happen to happy people. I feel like reviewing comics where very, very, very bad things happen to people who weren’t very nice to begin with.


Crossed #0

A nice little prologue for Garth Ennis’ upcoming horror series. A pleasant evening out at the local diner suddenly turns into car crashes, plane crashes, a nuke, and bloody mass murder. This is basically a zombie story, except the butchers aren’t dead — they’re normal people who’ve caught some condition that turns them into gleefully psychotic killers. And the only way to tell them apart (aside from the severed body parts they tend to carry around and their evil, evil smiles) is the ugly red rash that forms a cross over their faces.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mayhem and butchery? Gimme more o’ that. A nice claustrophobic, paranoid, ultra-violent beginning to the story. Can’t wait for the rest. Oh, and this is not a comic for kids. There is a great deal of violence and swearing and worse stuff that I’m not going to describe, because the head honchos here will protest. “You said you’d never use that word in combination with that word in describing that particular very rude act! Much less with a knife wound OR a kitten! For shame!” Fine, fine. Anyway, if you ain’t grown up enough to handle the rough stuff, don’t read it.


House of Mystery #4

Fig continues to try to adjust to her new life in the House of Mystery. She chats with a crazy ham enthusiast, fights with cranky Cress, and tries to beat up the house with a sledgehammer. Meanwhile, our spotlight story this issue is told by the punk witch princess Daphne — she tells about her flight from her witch-filled home dimension before the robotic invasion of the Thinking Man’s Army. To hide her properly, she, along with her bodyguard, a talking leopard named Floyd, gets teleported into a mundane world and deprived of her true name. To return home, all she has to do is kiss her true love and learn her true name. Unfortunately, she and Floyd have a great deal more fun just hacking up her boyfriends whenever they don’t make the cut.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The main story is a bit drab, but Daphne and Floyd are so fun and twisted and bloody and cynical, it pushes it straight over the top.

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The Big Red One


Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1

Okay, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” opens in theaters today, so let’s review a new “Hellboy” comic to get in the mood. This story is set back in 1958, with Hellboy going on walkabout in the Appalachian Mountains. He meets up with a guy named Tom Ferrell, who sold his soul to the devil but then chickened out on the deal and took off. Now he’s come back, and he and Hellboy head out to lay the smackdown on the witches, demons, and devil worshippers plaguing the area.

Verdict: Thumbs up. First of all, it’s written by Mike Mignola, who is absolutely aces on pulp horror. And it’s illustrated by Richard Corben, who, as I’ve mentioned recently, is an awesomely slam-bang horror artist. And this story is chock-full of cool horror imagery, from the emptied witch-skin to the defaced Bible to the near-skeletal horse to the evil Crooked Man himself. The only less-than-awesome thing is that Hellboy himself doesn’t have much to do here — he’s mostly asking questions and listening while Tom Ferrell tells him what’s going on. But I trust it won’t be long before he’s hitting demons with that big stone fist…


House of Mystery #3

Well, I don’t have any other new Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comics to review right now, so let’s keep things in the same dark-fantasy genre. Fig, the House’s new permanent resident, tries in vain to escape over the wall that surrounds the property, but it’s no use — she’s one of the five people who can never leave the property unless invited by the ominous coachman who sometimes visits the House. Meanwhile, in the spotlight story, a low-level gangster spins a yarn about a very close shave against some tough mobsters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The spotlight story is a bit dull, and not at all horror, but the rest of the book is suitably spooky, especially the segment at the end with the coachman and Rina, the last person to be allowed to leave the House. And I gotta say, I’m really digging these covers by Sam Weber — so far, they’ve all been beautiful masterpieces of creepiness, and I entirely approve.

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Skaar Tissue


Skaar: Son of Hulk #1

Everyone’s kinda been waiting on this one with bated breath. It’s written by Greg Pak, who penned the thoroughly awesome “World War Hulk” last year. Its backstory is tied all the way back to the “Planet Hulk” storyline, where Mr. Green Genes was marooned on a distant planet and forced to fight in gladiatorial contests. He eventually became king and took a wife named Caiera, who had some major superpowers of her own. But a planetary disaster killed Caiera and sent Hulk on a vengeance-fueled trip back to Earth. But apparently, Hulk’s unborn son somehow survived his mother’s atomization to become a savage and fast-growing warrior. A year after his birth, Skaar’s homeworld is dominated by a barbarian horde led by a warlord with the extremely awesome name of Axeman Bone, who’s working to exterminate any rumored sons of the Hulk so they can’t interfere with his rule. Of course, Skaar and the Axeman (Wow, that’d be a great name for a ’70s cop show) come to blows.

Verdict: Ehh, first issue really doesn’t float my boat. We don’t know a durn thing about Skaar yet, other than him being the son of the Hulk. And as far as brutal barbarian action heroes go, Skaar ain’t no Conan. Maybe the second issue will be more appealing.


Trinity #2

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman get introduced to some strange otherworlds — a miniature but very destructive solar system descends on Metropolis, Gotham City gets temporarily turned into a city of mystics and demons, and Wonder Woman is attacked by gigantic robots (which leads us indirectly into the title of this story — “A Personal Best at Giant Robot Smashing” — which is the coolest thing in nine parsecs. This is all the work of Morgaine Le Fay and Enigma, somehow… And in the second half of the story, John Stewart is attacked by a couple of space monsters called Konvikt and Graak.

Verdict: Once again, ehh, not thrilled. The title is tres cool, but I’m left completely unimpressed by the story so far.


Abe Sapien #5

Basically, even though it looks like Capital-E Evil is gonna triumph, Hellboys fishy pal Abe Sapien shoots a few ghosts, checks out a crazy church, and a magical moray eel eats the evil spirit.

Verdict: Okay, I absolutely adored the crazy church where all the icons had been redecorated in a marine motif (Saints with shark jaws and starfish wired all over them, plus a Virgin Mary statue with a dead squid tied to it. That’s bizarreness that I’d pay a good four dollars for, fer sher.), but the rest of the story was just a bit not-there. Abe did a little bit of shootin’, but he was mainly there to watch as other people did the heavy lifting.


House of Mystery #2

Our lost runaway who came to the House at the end of the first issue is named Fig, and she looks like she’s gonna be our main character. She meets the various residents of the House and learns that she’s one of the few people who’s actually stuck here forever — she can’t leave, ever. We also get a story told by an otherworldly process server, about how he got himself temporary gills so he could serve an undersea monarch named King Krakenheart. Unfortunately, the gills are a lot more temporary than they were expected to be.

Verdict: Looks like this is gonna be my day for “Ehh” reviews, ’cause this one just didn’t float my boat. The spotlight story about the process server just doesn’t measure up to last issue’s nightmarish insectoid horrorfest, and the story focusing on the denizens of the House of Mystery is even lighter than that. This book needs to step up to the storytelling plate and start knocking ’em out of the park, or it’s gonna get cancelled fast.

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Flies on the Wall


House of Mystery #1

DC looks to be trying to recreate one of their classic horror anthologies, with a few twists. In this first issue, we discover that someone has somehow stolen Cain’s House of Mystery from out of the Dreaming itself. Much later, there are a bunch of people living in it — actually, they have no choice but to live in it. In fact, they never get to leave, except for rarely, when a strange coach arrives and whisks one of the tenants away, never to be seen again. We get into this issue’s setpiece after that, the odd life story of a girl named Hungry Sally.

Listen, if you don’t like disturbing, creepy, gory stuff, Hungry Sally’s story is gonna put you off your lunch. If you do like disturbing, creepy, gory stuff, it’s still likely to be unlike anything you’ve read in a comic book before. It involves pregnancy. And flies. I don’t think I can tell more than that without spoiling it. Viewer discretion is advised.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yow, very squishy. I’m certainly willing to give this another shot. With any luck, the involvement of Cain and Abel from the “Sandman” series could mean we’ll eventually see a story or two from Neil Gaiman himself. Well, that’s what I’ve got my fingers crossed for.


Hulk #3

Most of this issue is devoted to the red Hulk, still a man of mystery, fighting the new blue Abomination — the former Rick Jones, now calling himself A-Bomb. Their battle ends up freeing Bruce Banner and turning him back into the familiar green Hulk. And aside from all that, there’s Iron Man, She-Hulk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to figure out who the new Hulk is.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who the red Hulk is. Does that make me smarter than Tony Stark yet?


Countdown to Mystery #7

Bruce Gordon manages to free Plastic Man, the Creeper, and Dove from Eclipso’s influence, but a bunch of Eclipso worshippers manage to make Gordon turn into the villainous vengeance demon and merge him with a giant black diamond, vastly increasing his power. The only being who can stop him now is the Spectre, but the thousands of souls who he’s damned over the centuries are back and ready to take their own revenge. Elsewhere, the Helmet of Fate gets taken by someone who just ain’t ready for it, and it looks like a lot of people are going to pay a terrible price for her arrogance.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Let’s be honest, the only thing anyone should be caring about is the Dr. Fate story. This issue is basically the last story by the late Steve Gerber. The next issue is the last one for the series — it’ll be interesting to see how DC will resolve the story without Gerber guiding it.

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