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House of Mystery Vol. 1: Room and Boredom Paperback – January 20, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
Book 1 of 7 in the House of Mystery Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Jack of Fables writers Willingham and Sturges trade places on the masthead of a new, quite a bit creepier series that swirls around a big, elaborate house of many architectural styles with an interior far more expansive than the exterior implies. Perched on an intersection of realities, it’s a place you arrive at unexpectedly and leave only at the seeming whim of the house itself. Attempts to break out short-circuit you back into the place and its grounds. Everyone soon lands in the ground-floor saloon and is expected to tell a tale for admittance; since the length of anyone’s sojourn is indefinite, everyone obliges. So the main story—concerned with Fig Keele, who, fleeing in terror her imploding Austin, Texas, home, runs into the house—is regularly interrupted by drinkers’ yarns, all of the type of which nightmares are made. Luca Rossi draws the main story to look like a literally edgier Fables, and five stylistically disparate artists draw the inserted tales. A little loose, perhaps, but very intriguing. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401220797
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401220792
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.3 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,028,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph Boone VINE VOICE on January 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This volume collects the first five issues of the House of Mystery series from Vertigo. Many years ago, DC published House of Mystery as an anthology of self-contained horror stories. There was no continuity from issue to issue and no recurring characters other than the narrator's appearances in a brief framing sequence. This relaunch of the series by author Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham (of Fables fame) is a very different animal. The House of Mystery itself now takes center stage along with a recurring cast of occupants and ongoing storylines and subplots.

The house sits at something of a cosmic crossroads that allow visitors from many different worlds. Most can come and go as they please, but a handful are trapped indefinitely. This small group runs a restaurant and bar in the house and the only payment accepted is a story to alleviate their boredom. When a new permanent occupant arrives, the status quo appears to be shaken up a bit and a number of subplots and minor mysteries slowly bubble to the surface.

This first volume does a solid job of introducing the cast of characters and establishing the House of Mystery as a, well, mysterious place. It's clear that Willingham and Sturges intend to move the story forward at a measured pace and take their time before revealing too much. While I don't find the pace to be a problem, I would caution readers who like things to move forward briskly that this may not be your cup of tea.

The core members of the cast are made up of the four permanent residents of the house, only one of which happens to be a man. Except for the new addition, Fig, the other three are pretty interchangeable so far. Snarky and bored, but not overly mean spirited.
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Format: Paperback
This new Vertigo title has a rather complicated background. The original "House of Mystery" was a long-running anthology title from the 1950s to the 1980s, which ran through several different formats, the most famous of which featured Cain (the first murderer) as the Crypt Keeper-esque storyteller. Cain and his House were later appropriated, along with a host of other elements from old DC Comics, for Neil Gaiman's classic "The Sandman" series. "The Sandman" is the gold standard for what became Vertigo, a mix of ongoing character arcs and the author's experimentation with the meaning of dreams and story; among it's various stories is the "Worlds' End" arc (volume 8), which featured travellers in an interdimensional waystation telling each other stories. The new "House of Mystery" draws on this and that to create a mix of stories and ongoing arc similar to "The Sandman", though not nearly so involved in the anthology aspect as previous versions.

For the writing team, we have Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, the creative team for "Jack of Fables", a spinoff of Willingham's original "Fables" property, the current masterpiece of the Vertigo line of books. "Fables" is often compared to "The Sandman" in its integration of different fictions into a single meta-narrative, so it seems rather fitting for them to take charge.

As I said, the new "House of Mystery" is far more concerned with ongoing story than the old, which is a good thing, the market for pure anthology being what it is. This does leave the book with a feel of bifurcation, though.
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Format: Paperback
At the center of Sturges and Willingham's new Vertigo title is a bar. In many ways, one could argue that this tavern at the crossroads of dimensions is the true star of the series -- the trademark character that keeps us reading. This bar within the House of Mystery is home to five enigmatic but well crafted protagonists who have no idea why they are trapped there, but it also serves as host to a vast myriad of regulars who we slowly come to know as the series progresses and who bring the highest level of entertainment to this series, from the H.G. Welles era spaceman to the hollowed out girl, the interdimensional lawyer, the Sid Vicious inspired punk singer, and the odd gentleman who is obsessed with ham. I'm of the belief that it was Norm and Cliff, not Sam and Diane, who made "Cheers" a great setting, and Sturges and Willingham seem to understand this well.

Of course, the added twist is that this bar resides at the crossroads of dimensions, and so a more than generous portion of weird seeps onto the pages. Each issue is structured to take place as part of a larger arc featuring the protagonists attempting to leave and/or understand the house that imprisons them, but each issue also features a tangential story told by one of the bar regulars as barter for food and drink. It's often these side stories that resonate the best in this series. Some are weird and deranged, others silly and playful. Nearly all are highly unique and unforgettable.

The larger arcs hold together by towing the reader along with revelations that always lead to more questions, much like "Lost" or "The X-Files." I often find myself hungrily flipping back pages to revisit old passages that seemed trivial at the time but hold great significance in retrospect.
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