House of Mystery: Room and Boredom trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo imprint)
by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Luca Rossi & various other artists
My first impression of this series was lukewarm. In my capsule review of the first issue, I wrote that I enjoyed the story within the story but wasn’t all that taken with the larger plotline, revolving around Fig’s discovery of the House of Mystery and the fact that she can’t leave. I found that the bar in the House reminded me too much of similar settings we’ve seen in other comics. Those similarities are still there, but Fig’s story, her unusual connection to the House and her interactions with the other permanent residents won me over. The formula of one of the bar patrons sharing a story within each episode doesn’t really advance the larger story at all, but it does bring variety and plenty of levity to the mix. While House of Mystery has something of a classic Vertigo feel to it, it’s not as challenging or thought-provoking as Sandman or other classic titles of the imprint. But it’s quite entertaining, and that’s enough to get me to check out the second trade paperback when it arrives in comic shops.
I think the greatest strength the title has going for it is the artwork. As I noted before, the stories within the story bring a diversity of material and genres to the series, and more importantly, it brings a diversity of visual style. The formula makes it easy to accept the shifts in style, and one has to give those guiding the title credit for recruiting such great artistic talent to contribute short stories to each issue. The standouts in this volume are the pages illustrated by Ross Campbell and Steve Rolston, but there’s not a weak one in the bunch. Furthermore, Luca Rossi’s angular style achieves a nice balance between the grounded qualities of the core characters and the surreal elements inherent in the premise. 8/10