Sunday, November 1, 2009

Comic Review: House of Mystery Halloween Annual (DC Comics) by Stacey Rader

House of Mystery is a book that I have consistently enjoyed from the beginning. I started reading it on the merits of Bill Willingham’s writing, and being a fan of the old DC title. Taking its cue from its predecessor, the book mixes suspenseful, sometimes horrifying, sometimes humorous stories with a continuing story of Fig and the other denizens of the House of Mystery. It fits well within the confines of the Vertigo imprint, and this book shows that.

The Halloween Annual opens with Fig trying to choose a costume and recounting the reason she hates Halloween. She decides on an unusual mask and her street clothes, and the group heads out to the bar. All of a sudden Fig begins feeling the effects of the mask and has visions of characters around the Vertigo universe. The first story, “High Spirits” (Mark Buckingham and Bill Willingham) features Merv Pumpkinhead, a character fans of the Sandman series will undoubtedly recognize. This lighthearted story is a fun peek into what happens when our nightmares party a little too hard. After a cut back to Fig and friends, we move to “Letter From a Suicide” (Peter Milligan), a John Constantine: Hellblazer story that has an unusual twist on suicide. Having not been familiar with the character, I still thought this story was well written. Next was my favorite story, “Trick or Treat! An I, Zombie Story” (Chris Roberson and Mike Allred). I, Zombie is an upcoming series from Vertigo and judging from this short sneak preview, I’m going to be adding this to my pull list, especially if Mike Allred continues to be involved. The story was equal parts horror and smart humor (like the main character being a zombie and dressing as Shaun from Shaun of the Dead) and left me wanting more. The final story, “Captive Audience” (Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley) takes place in the Madame Xanadu corner of Vertigo. It centers around a young girl and her desire to escape her difficult adolescent life. Then we return to the House of Mystery cast to close out the story.

In the tradition of comics and movies before it, each story features the mysterious mask in one way or another. I won’t reveal how here, since that’s part of the fun of this book. All in all this Annual not only introduces new readers to the fun of House of Mystery, but also why comic readers should buy Vertigo titles. The book epitomizes the quality of writing and art readers expect from these titles. At first I was a little disappointed that Fables wasn’t included in the fun, but I think that world is so self-contained it would have been a stretch. Even though I wasn’t 100% familiar with the details of every character, I didn’t feel like I was coming into the middle of any of the stories needing background information. If anything, it made me want to check out back issues of titles like Constantine: Hellblazer and Sandman.

Even though it’s past Halloween, I highly recommend picking up this title if you’ve ever been curious about characters in the Vertigo universe. It’s definitely a fun read, even if you don’t regularly read House of Mystery, which you should.

Stacey Rader
Staff Reviewer

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