“House of Mystery” is a series that, over the last six months or so, has steadily lost my interest as a reader. Maybe it’s because a lot of the mystery evaporated as some of the storylines were wrapped up, but for whatever reason it’s quietly gone from a series that I looked forward to every month to one that’s been flagging. This month, the book hits the big quarter-century of issues, and in doing so plays a game of Exquisite Corpse.
For those unfamiliar with the game, the idea is that it’s a group story by a series of writers, where each writer gets to only glimpse a bit of the previous writer’s work and then moving forward from there. More often than not the end result would be a bit of gibberish, so the rules are relaxed here as each writer gets to see all that has come before. (Think of it as a Vertigo version of the old “DC Challenge” mini-series from the mid-’80s.)
The problem with this, of course, is that given the chance to do evil things to the characters as well as the next writer, that’s exactly what unfolds. Bill Willingham starts by killing off the lead character in his four-page installment, and from there it goes downhill as the body count rises and the situations get progressively crazier. From a technical standpoint, it’s actually a funny story because you get to watch each writer use a limited number of pages to try and push the next writer into a corner even while they try and wiggle out of the one they’ve been placed in. But once you set that aside, the actual story itself is a little flat. It’s not a bad idea, per se, but it’s one that has a huge reset button the second Willingham kills off his first character, and from there the entire story feels like an exercise in inevitability.
Luca Rossi’s pencils are all right, although I do wish he inked his own art instead of Jose Marzan Jr. There’s still that angular look to his art that attracted me, but it’s a little harsher and rougher when Marzan inks Rossi. It is fun seeing Rossi draw all the returning characters to the book, though, and the art is easily the high point of the book.
Alisa Kwitney’s segment opens with the line, “You know what, guys? I don’t like this story.” Eve responds a few panels later with, “So change it,” and while I appreciate Kwitney’s joking response to what’s happened up until this point, there’s another message there about the books that one reads and the way to escape a series you’re increasingly getting bored with. Don’t tempt your reader to change what book they’re reading, too. “House of Mystery” could use a redecorating team, and soon.