DC's edgy Vertigo line has long been a bastion of excellence in the world of comic books, and the House of Mystery series is currently one of the main reasons why. I recently got my grubby hands on House of Mystery's first-ever Halloween Annual, and can honestly say it made my Halloween just a little more festive.
Yes, I read the issue on Halloween itself, appropriately enough, which is why I'm posting my review after the holiday (and if you think that's late, wait till you read my review of the Trick 'r Treat graphic novel). It's still on sale for a couple more weeks, and I'd urge you strongly to pick it up if you're looking to prolong that holiday feeling--and really, who isn't?
In some ways, the issue does a better job of recapturing the old Creepy Magazine feel than Dark Horse's actual Creepy revival book--albeit in a more mature, Vertigo style. In other words, this ain't one for the kiddies.
The entire book revolves around a mysterious mask, which appears on the cover via a painting by acclaimed gothic/surrealist artist Esao Andrews. Inside, we have a framing story involving the familiar House of Mystery crew, in which one of the characters finds the mask. This opens the door to a series of fine little illustrated tales, in which the mask features in one way or another.
For example, there's a quick little piece that brings back the Neil Gaiman/Sam Keith creation Merv Pumpkinhead, a character which hasn't really been seen since Gaiman's now-classic Sandman series. Merv's return is written and drawn by Mark Buckingham, best known for his collaborations with Alan Moore on the groundbreaking Marvelman (a.k.a. Miracleman) in the 1980s.
We've got a neat little Hellblazer one-off by Peter Milligan, whom you may remember as the guy who totally reinvented X-Force for Marvel, freeing it from the suckage of Rob Leifeld. This one is certainly way more enjoyable than that John Constantine snoozefest I reviewed here a couple weeks back...
The somewhat obscure supernatural DC character Madame Xanadu turns up in a quirky story written by Grendel-creator Matt Wagner, and impeccably drawn by Wagner's current collaborator on Vertigo's newest Madame Xanadu series, Amy Reeder Hadley.
But for my money, it's the sneak peek at Vertigo's upcoming I, Zombie series that takes the cake. Written by noted alternate history novelist Chris Roberson and drawn by the absolutely stunning pop-art stylist Michael Allred, this looks to be one hell of an interesting book, and I will be checking it out come 2010 when the official series is set to be launched.
All in all, there's not a clunker in the bunch. Quite obviously, a lot of care went into putting this one-shot anthology together, and so due credit also goes to Vertigo editors Shelly Bond, Angela Rufino and Brandon Montclare for this obvious labor of love. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue
**Find The Vault of Horror on Facebook and Twitter, or download the new mobile app!**
**Check out my other blogs, Standard of the Day, Proof of a Benevolent God and Lots of Pulp!**