House of Mystery #12

I have to give Matthew Sturges credit; early on, it looked like "House of Mystery" would be a one-trick pony. People show up in the House and tell a short story, while an unconnected framing story dripped hints of mystery about where they were all trapped and what was happening. The reality? It's been a while since I've read a book that had so much plot advancement in its first year.

For example, in this latest issue, we're learning more about not only Fig's father (a character whom I think everyone had assumed would vanish at the end of the previous story arc, rather than stick around and actually explain what's happening), but also the first hints about bartender Harry and his own relationship with the House of Mystery. Meanwhile, Sturges is taking the idea of multiple universes and starting to play with it in slightly creepy and disturbing ways. The story-within-a-story this issue on its own is certainly a good one, about a woman who seeks out versions of her ideal lover across different universes. But in the context of the larger plot of "House of Mystery" it's hard to not feel like it has some ominous overtones about just where this series could end up heading, and some of the problems just lurking around the corner. Even seemingly discarded characters, like Rina from the very first issue, have a greater story to unfold and be told, and it's a lot of fun just seeing where it leads.

Special props are due to Luca Rossi and Jose Marzan on the main story. Every month, Rossi's pencils look beautiful with their slightly rough and angular constructions, a real joy to look at. In this issue, though, Rossi's in especially fine form when it comes to the shifting of universes. When two characters slip out of the House and into somewhere else, the way that Rossi draws them (and the entire scene) shifting into a two-dimensional tableau is actually a little startling at first glance. It manages to look both instantly recognizable and at the same time, wrong. It's a great effect, and I commend Sturges and Rossi for pulling it off. Grazia Lobaccaro and Stefano Landini do a fine job with the bonus story this issue, and I appreciate that the structure of "House of Mystery" is pulling in so many varied and interesting guest artists. I'd certainly like to see more of Lobaccaro down the line.

You may have thought you knew where "House of Mystery" was heading, but Sturges is proving everyone's expectations wrong. This is a sharp and interesting series, and it's well worth your attention. Check it out; you'll be surprised in a good way.

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