I liked the first issue of this series, and the way it was structured with a long-form mystery plot as a frame story around various nice-looking anthology tales. But I didn’t stick around for more than a handful of issues, as I lost interest in the main plot rather quickly and the guest artists drawing the embedded stories didn’t lure me consistently. So “House of Mystery” #27 is the first issue of the series I’ve read in nearly two years.
In many ways, this review is a check-in, to see if I like this issue enough to start buying it again, or even find enough of interest that I’d feel compelled to track down all the issues I’ve missed. But the reason I chose to jump back in to the series with this particular issue — admittedly a not-very-inviting time, as this is “Part 2 of 5” of the “Safe Houses” arc — is the presence of Brendan McCarthy.
So this review is also a response to the implicit question: Is the Brendan McCarthy contribution worth a look?
As CBR readers who have been paying attention know, Brendan McCarthy is an artist who has received my accolades more than once. He’s a major talent in the industry, though he hasn’t produced much for mainstream consumption in the past decade. But his “Spider-Man: Fever” miniseries is one of my favorite books of the year, and his work with Matt Fraction on “Who Won’t Wield the Shield” was a giddy blend of Ditko, Nixon, and old-school Peter Milligan. McCarthy’s always someone worth paying attention to, so, yes, his contribution to “House of Mystery” #27 is certainly worth a look, even if it’s less amazing than his Marvel work from 2010.
In this issue McCarthy provides the full-color art on an eight-page Vietnam flashback story, in which one of the main characters, Mack, recounts his experiences learning to be a sorcerer in the bush. “I learned how to turn verbs into water and thoughts into lima beans,” he narrates, over a McCarthy collage page. It’s a weird war tale, to be sure, and it’s an enchantingly odd one, but though it gives McCarthy a chance to maximize the psychedelic color scheme he seems to like, it’s a little less energizing than what we saw in his earlier work this year. It’s still great-looking stuff, and I’d love to see him draw every single page of every single issue of this comic, but I’m just trying to provide some context.
The rest of this issue, drawn by regular series artist Luca Rossi, shows that this series has changed plenty since last time I checked in. First, and most noticeably, the characters aren’t in the house anymore, and the long-form mystery has blossomed into a full-on war with goblins, and witches, and time travel, and flying killer robots. Not what I expected to find at all, and though I don’t know what’s at stake and who all the players are, I know that my curiosity is piqued. I might just have to check out this series again, even if Brendan McCarthy isn’t around each and every month.