House of Mystery: Room and Boredom

I wasn’t looking for another series to read, but I tried the first issue of this new-style anthology, and I was hooked.

House of Mystery: Room and Boredom cover
House of Mystery:
Room and Boredom
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Cain and Abel, the DC horror comic hosts from the 70s who lived in the Houses of Mystery and Secrets, respectively, make a two-page cameo at the beginning, but after that, it’s all new. The House of Mystery is now a bar outside dimensions.

Fig Keele is the newest inhabitant, chased by mysterious characters in old-fashioned dress as her house in this reality burned down. An architecture student, she’d been dreaming of and drawing the house. The other regulars, those trapped and unable to leave, include the bouncer Ann Preston, a pirate; the self-announced “charming rogue” Poet (who may be John Keats, based on a hint about his death); the grumpy-but-talkative waitress Cress (short for Cressida, we later learn); and bartender Harry Bailey. The other characters come and go, but they tell tales along the way as recompense for their food and drink.

It’s been done before in comics: Vertigo’s own Sandman: World’s End, for instance. But this version is well-done and moves along quickly. The stories told by the guests, a different one each issue, are illustrated by guest artists. In the first, Bill Willingham writes and Ross Campbell draws a short thing about a bug-bride. The second has Willingham with Jill Thompson postulating a supernatural process server’s trip underwater.

Not all of these are true stories — the second one, by the time it’s begun, it’s done — but they capture the voices of people telling tales to each other. The first depends on the contrast between the words and pictures, so it only works as a comic, not spoken by the character within the story. By the third, Sturges is doing them all, and they’re no longer necessarily horror. The third, drawn by Zachary Baldus, is a kind of gangster comedy, which goes along well with the dark humor of Fig’s attempts to escape the house.

I liked Steve Rolston’s contribution to the fourth, about a witch princess, her murderous cheetah, and the search for true love. That story was deeply twisted in a funny way, and that’s when I knew I really liked this series. Regular artist Luca Rossi is also terrific. He draws expressive people, detailed settings, and makes it all look effortless.

Writer Matthew Sturges creates intriguing situations, to-the-point dialogue that’s a pleasure to read, and a fascinating cast with a minimum of text, making an issue feel more dense than many others of the same length. That’s an excellent thing in today’s world, as many readers are asking themselves why not wait for the eventual collection? In this case, the paperback is an even better deal, as the bargain price of $10 for five issues’ worth of comic comes with additional unspecified bonus material.

Best of all, by issue 5, we’ve gotten some good idea about what makes Fig special and a bit of explanation of what’s going on. Which makes this collection even come with a little resolution. House of Mystery: Room and Boredom is due in January and can be ordered with code OCT08 0222.


7 Responses to “House of Mystery: Room and Boredom”

  1. Rob McMonigal Says:

    This is one of the few books I have on my pull list, because, as you mentioned, it’s actually readable in single issue form.

    I fail to see why to buy single issues for anything but limited interest titles, given they are clearly written for trades now.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 27, 2008: Of course he’s a total geek Says:

    [...] [Review] House of Mystery: Room and Boredom Link: Johanna Draper Carlson [...]

  3. Kelson Says:

    I’ve been getting sort of half-annoyed at Vertigo, because I’m trying to cut back on my comics reading, but they keep launching interesting books.

    It took me a bit longer to get hooked. I like the continuing story and characters, but the anthology part has been hit and miss. I almost decided to back off after the end of this storyline, but the cover for #6 reeled me right back in.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I guess I’m lucky, that this is the only recent one that’s worked for me. I look forward to seeing the first collection of Air, though, since I liked Cairo.

  5. Rob McMonigal Says:

    I passed on “Air” even though it looked interesting because I’ve been pretty hit and miss with modern Vertigo. I’ll definitely give it a shot in the trade.

  6. John Rogers’ New Project: Leverage » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] because of John Rogers’ writing. He’s not writing it any more. (Matthew Sturges (House of Mystery) has taken over.) Instead, Rogers has moved to television, with a new TNT series [...]

  7. Tomorrow’s Comics Today: A Very Late Previews » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] might be interested in The Literals, a new Vertigo miniseries written by Matthew Sturges (whose House of Mystery I enjoy), if I had any clue what it was about. Judging from the description, it’s only [...]

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