House of Mystery

Books: Graphic Novel | Fantasy

Room & Boredom (2008), Love Stories for Dead People (2009), The Space Between (2010), The Beauty of Decay (2010), Under New Management (2011), Safe as Houses (2011)

Room & Boredom (2008) Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Luca Rossi

Room & BoredomWe wandered into a Borders while we were in Denver, and I noticed House of Mystery: Room & Boredom because of Bill Willingham's name across the top. I love Fables, so I'm willing to try anything he has a hand in.

The story starts with Cain and Abel, which immediately brings to mind Sandman. The House of Mystery then immediately draws comparison to the Free House at World's End, where stories are the only currency accepted.

Although some people can enter the House of Mystery and leave at will, five area trapped in the house and cannot leave.

Enter Fig, who is escaping… well, I'm not quite sure what she's escaping, but it was enough to take her house down. She then meets up with the other permanent residents of the house, including my favorite, Ann the Pirate Queen.

Like World's End, Room & Boredom is a collection of stories within a story. Stories of strange worlds and stranger people inhabiting those worlds. The most disturbing story in the collection is that of Hungry Sally. Just… ew.

The remainder of the stories were far less disturbing.

I'm still not sure whether the House of Mystery is the same as the Free House at World's End. But I suppose I'm not supposed to me. This wasn't bad for a first volume, and I hope a later volume tells of more of Ann's past. Did I mention I really like Ann the Pirate Queen?

Rating: 7/10

Love Stories for Dead People (2009) Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Jose Marzan Jr

The story opens with some of Ann's back story. We still don't know what brought her to the House of Mystery, but we know some of what shaped her–and that she doesn't come from our reality.

Ann and Harry decide that with Fig along, it may once again be safe to explore the basement, because that may just be the only way they might escape. Unfortunately for them, it doesn't go well, and only dredges up memories and worse.

And while Harry is gone, Cressida and the Poet let things get a little wild at the house–wilder at least than we've seen with Harry in charge.

And speaking of Harry, although we learn nothing of Harry's life before he came to the House of Mystery, we learn about his early time there, and how he became the bartender.

It's still not quite clear how other people can come and go, but Harry, Ann, Cressida, the Poet, and Fig remain trapped, but I suppose we're not yet to know.

I enjoyed this second volume as much as the first–perhaps even a bit more. We learn bits and pieces about the different occupants of the House of Mystery, and learn whose house it really is (and get a visit from Cain and Goldie) but never learn why Cain's house ran away from him (so to speak).

As strange and horrific as some of this may be, I am enjoying The House of Mystery, and am looking forward to the next volume, whenever it comes out.

Rating: 7/10

The Space Between (2010) Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Jose Marzan Jr

I'd somehow managed to forget that Fig's father had shown up at the end of the last episode. Needless to say, he's causing trouble for Fig, at a time when the house is having enough troubles of its own.

There are a variety of stories here. Stories about Rina–her past and her present. Stories about members of the house in the present, stories about members of the house in the past (and a new addition to the house to boot) and several random stories, some of which were strange, some of which were dark, some of which were horrifying.

One of the things I very much like about this series, is that like Sandman before it, the structure of the series allows you to wander down strange paths and learn stories that are there just for the sake of being stories.

I have to admit, however, that I wasn't particularly fond of the story of Rina's past. Not sure I can quite put my finger on it, but in some places it felt as if it were leaving out the important parts, while in other places the story felt a bit too heavy handed.

However, I really liked the surprise reveal at the end.

Rating: 7/10

The Beauty of Decay (2010) Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Werther Dell'Edera, Jose Marzain Jr

Fig and friends are now stuck in The City in the Space Between, and no one can come up with a way out. Stories are still told–stories told and histories remembered where we learn a little more about those in the house.

And Cain's wants to get his house back–to hell (quite literally) with anyone who gets in his way.

The volume also contains a set of linked stories involving a mask, John Constantine, Merv Pumpkinhead and Madame Xanadu. I didn't actually have a problem with those vignettes, it's just that they appeared after the conclusion of the story arc for this book, which was… confusing.

Although the story arc of Fig and those trapped in the house is interesting, I still think I prefer the stories shared by those who come into the house–the random, unrelated stories.

Rating: 7/10

Under New Management (2011) Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Jose Marzan Jr

I think what I like best about the House of Mystery are the stories between the story. Like the House at World's End, it's full of tales and stories told by the visitors to the house, tales from other times and worlds.

I suppose it makes it an anthology in comic form, which may be why I like it so well.

Aside from the Fig thread, which is… okay, there are a variety of tales told by the patrons. These stories were written by a variety of authors, including Bill Willingham (of Fables) Aside from Fig, about whom I remain ambivalent, I quite like the other characters in the story. Cain & Abel are not strong enough to carry their own series, but placed around the stories of others they fit very well into the series.

If you have not read House of Mystery before, you should be able to pick up here, because the heart of this series is the tales between. But if you want to understand more of Fig's story, you'll need to go back to the start of the series. And if you don't know about Cain & Abel (I mean, besides the obvious biblical story) you haven't read Sandman, and that is something your should rectify immediately.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 7/10

Safe as Houses (2011) Matthew Sturges, Luca Rossi, Werther Dell Edera, Jose Marzain Jr

I was intrigued by the first volume of House of Mystery, and the subsequent volumes were also interesting, but this volume fell flat for me.

I think the primary reason was that–for me–the best parts of these volumes were the stories told by the customers of the House of Mystery, and those stories were lacking in this volume. Instead, there were multiple threads with the recurring characters that seems (to me) to be distracting.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 7/10