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Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham – House of Mystery, Vol. 1: Room & Boredom

September 29, 2010

115. House of Mystery, Vol. 1: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Luca Rossi, Lee Loughridge, Todd Klein, Ross Campbell, Jill Thompson, Zachary Baldus, Steve Rolston, Sean Murphy, Dave McCaig (2008)
House of Mystery, Volume 1

Length: 128 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Horror

Started / Finished: 16 September 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was searching the library catalog for “Willingham” to make sure I hadn’t missed any Fables and ran across this.

Are you really a
shut-in if it’s your own house
that won’t let you leave?

Summary: There is a house that sits between worlds, where folks of all sorts may stop in for a drink. The first drink is on the house, but all others must be paid for, and the coin of the realm is stories. Most patrons come, have some drinks, share their tales, and then return to their lives, but an unlucky few are unable to leave the house’s confines unless a mysterious coachmen comes to take them away. When architecture student Bethany “Fig” Keeler is chased by a mysterious duo known as the Conception into the house, she’s not ready to deal with what she finds within. Not because of the unusual clientele, but because the House has been haunting her dreams for her whole life, and now she’s stuck there until she can figure out the reason behind it all.

Review: Metafiction fans, rejoice, because you’ve got another series to lose yourself in. Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham are the creative team behind the Jack of Fables comics, but House of Mystery is a very, very different beast – apart from the underlying theme of the power of stories, and some similarities in the way the narration vs. dialogue is handled, I would never have put the two together. Perhaps that’s because House of Mystery draws much more heavily from the Sandman tradition, both in its tone, its structure, and quite a few of its details. I’m not going to call it a Sandman spinoff, since it’s perfectly understandable without having read the former series, but Cain and Abel and the Dreaming do show up (albeit quite briefly), and the House of Mystery is either the same as, or extremely similar to, The House at Worlds’ End (it’s been long enough since I’ve read Sandman that I can’t say conclusively).

The frame story (which is the bulk of the pages, actually), is certainly intriguing, and I really like the conceit of using guest artists to illustrate the short (usually 4-6 page) stories that are being told by the patrons of the house – it really gives each of them an individual feel and the whole thing a unique flair. The whole thing’s pretty dark, with more than a few nightmarish qualities to it, but there are also plenty of interesting character moments, and more than one place that made me laugh out loud. I’m excited to see what the rest of the series will bring. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of the Sandman series and The Unwritten, or possibly of some of the darker elements of Fables, and fans of metafiction with a horror twist, should all check this one out.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: In a quiet, small corner of the Dreaming… “My dear brother, Abel, I do so enjoy our daily afternoon teas together.”

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 8:52 am

    You had me at metafiction. This sounds wonderful, and I’ve been getting into fantasy horror lately.

    • October 13, 2010 9:23 am

      Omni – This sounds perfect for you, then! If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think!

  2. September 29, 2010 11:48 am

    Sounds great, thanks for sharing.

  3. September 29, 2010 2:02 pm

    I have to give some of Willingham’s other stuff a chance since I like the Fables so much.

    • October 13, 2010 9:25 am

      Ladytink – For sure! Willingham knows his way around a good story, without question.

  4. October 17, 2010 4:54 am

    Okay, I DEFINITELY need to read this series. Thank you for leaving me the link!

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