Ordinarily, I’d relegate this review to the old Android’s Dungeon group of reviews but we’re here on the home stretch of Halloween posts and I need Halloween themed material. There was a period in my comic reading biography where I could no longer stand to read super hero books. DC had been in a slump for years with a string of huge event books and publicity stunts (like killing Superman) and Marvel had put all their juice into mutant books and those bore a lot in common with daytime soaps. This is the spot when I finally let my guard down and in a desperate frenzy for a paper and ink fix, I turned to the imprint that I should have been reading all along. I discovered Vertigo and I loved it. It was sophisticated and weird. The problem was, however, that I was picking it up as most of Vertigo’s big guns were moving on to do major league books like JLA or were giving up comics for novels. At least I had a rich history of canon to explore.
The House Of Mystery Annual almost seems like a reminder that for all the books like DMZ and Y: The Last Man, the larger bulk of titles in the Vertigo line-up are actually part of the DC Universe. It sets a wraparound story set in the titular House Of Mystery to give you short four or five page stories from currently running Vertigo titles and one upcoming title. A mask, ejected accidentally from The Dreaming winds up bound to a girl’s face and shows her what it has done to people in the past. There’s a Hellblazer short, a Madame Xanadu short, one from The Dreaming and one from Mike Allred’s upcoming horror book, I, Zombie, and it’s great!
It warms my heart that anthology horror books are on the rebound. This one features some of DC’s best weird and horror fiction comics teams and it’s a consistently strong book from cover to cover even though it’s fairly clear that no one team knew what the others were doing. They were probably given an image of the mask and the idea that their story would be a smaller part of a larger tapestry, the comic book equivalent to an exquisite corpse. It’s fun and it’s a great way to introduce yourself to a bunch of books you either haven’t read in a long time (Hellblazer and The Dreaming are both still quite good) or maybe you haven’t read at all (I gave Madame Xanadu a shot and didn’t care for it) and one that you should be excited for (Mike Allred is the shit and I, Zombie looks like it’s going to be outstanding!). It’s a big book with a lot to see. Definitely put it in your pull list if you like horror comics.