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House of Mystery #1
writers: Matthew Sturges
and Bill Willingham
artists: Luca Rossi
and Ross Campbell

When Vertigo first announced this series, it seemed like we would be getting a complete re-imagining of everything this title meant in its heyday. Gone would be Cain and Abel hosting and fighting, though the press release promised it would still find a way to be an anthology of horror stories.

For some reason, that was troublesome to me. As a kid in the '70s, House of Mystery wasn't a book my parents would let me buy, but I eagerly read it whenever I found a friend or cousin with a copy. Then Neil Gaiman's establishment of the Dreaming in Vertigo gave the characters and the concept new life without doing anything more than pulling back an extra curtain. In short the House of Mystery proper had done its work and gotten under my skin.

Thankfully, this new series shares more than the name. In fact, it begins with a mystery. Who stole Cain's house and just where exactly have they relocated it? The book leaves a frustrated horror host to focus on the house's new denizens, beginning with a young female architect escaping a fire, pursued by faceless creeps. In her hands she holds the blueprints to the House of Mystery, which dreams have compelled her to draw. Obviously, she should have let them burn, but then we would have no story.

And now for the House of Mystery, a story is the most important thing. Several people have found themselves trapped within its walls, and rather than give in to despair, have turned it into an otherworldly truck stop of sorts. They can never leave, but for some reason, many of their visitors can, yet only after they have paid for their meal and rest. The coin of the realm, naturally enough, is tales.

So the book will have an over-arching plot, written by Matthew Sturges, coming out under the shadow of mentor Bill Willingham. Together they write Jack of Fables, and Willingham hasn't wandered far. While Sturges plots, Willingham will provide the little tales that pay for some tucker, and thanks to a more adult readership, the first one turns out to be delightfully horrible.

So the House has me unexpectedly hooked, in what turns out to be my favorite read this week. Well-plotted, well-paced, and leaving me with more than one image that will haunt me a bit this week, there's no doubt that the book will stay as strong as it started. Willingham writes my absolute favorite book, Fables, and this could end up running a close third after the Fables spin-off, Jack of…. Imagine that. Actually, Willingham probably could.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think!

Derek McCaw


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