Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 133 (6/16) -- House of Mystery: Room & Boredom by Sturges, Willingham, and Rossi

Some borrowings are more blatant than others -- and some are so blindingly obvious that they just become line extensions by other hands. House of Mystery (a new series written by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham, with art by Luca Rossi) is yet another attempt by DC/Vertigo to get the Sandman lightning to hit once again, serving also as a leisurely stroll through some little-used intellectual property vaguely associated with that series.

It starts explicitly in Neil Gaiman's "The Dreaming," the otherworldly land ruled by Dream of the Endless, to signpost its intentions (and stake its claim to the title, originally used on a '70s horror anthology) and provide walk-on roles to Cain and Abel. After that, of course, it piles on its own mysteries, which the reader has to assume won't be fully resolved for thirty or forty issues at best. There's an unidentified narrator who drops in and out to wax portentous, an oddly dressed, menacing couple chasing our heroine, and, most importantly, the central question of the house/restaurant/pub/bar implied by the title.

But it's not fair to complain -- after all, it does say up front that this will be a house of mysteries, doesn't it?

So we watch young would-be architect Bethany "Fig" Keele as she's chased by mysterious figures from her mysteriously crumbling home, down a mysterious alley and into a mysterious door, where she finds herself among mysterious people in that mysterious bar. None of those mysteries, I'm sorry to say, are at all solved in the course of this collection, and several more -- or, perhaps, further complications of those mysteries -- are piled on as the story goes. We do learn that the house Fig has found herself in is one of those between-worlds establishments (as in Gaiman's Worlds' End), and that Fig, like a few others, is unable to leave...for what are, naturally, mysterious reasons.

Like Worlds' End, House of Mystery is also made up of stories -- each issue (this volume collects the first five) has a short story, as told by one of the characters in the bar, illustrated by another artist. So far, these comment only obliquely on the main action, but I'm confident that they'll come to be more important eventually.

House of Mystery is competent and engaging, but it's still drawing out its thread at this point; there's little to be said about it until it actually starts weaving things together. Given its format, though, that may be quite a while.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Sea Wolf - O Maria!
via FoxyTunes

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