Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quick Hit Review: House of Mystery #22

Written By: Matthew Sturges, Bethany Keele, William Keele and Peter Keele
Pencils By: Lucca Rossi and Farel Dalrymple
Inks By: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colors By: Lee Loughridge
Letters By: Todd Klein
Publisher: Vertigo

The House is under “new management” in part two of this four part tale, but the formula of this book still feels just the same.

As someone who gives Vertigo the benefit of the doubt on many occasions, it is time for me to face facts - I have stuck with this series probably longer than I should have. But before I hit on that point further, let me talk about the actual single issue at hand. I did actually like this one particular issue. As a twenty-two page comic book I cannot find fault on Mr. Sturges or the crew. There is a nice flow for this issue, and the balancing act between the head story and the frame is actually pulled off nicely. I understand what the creative team has been going for with the frame stories (the frames act as a way to comment on the said theme or main situation of the main story through use of metaphor), but I think in very few instances they have pulled it off. The frame does work in this issue though because it is actually more of a flashback for our main character, naturely connecting to the main story. For the fact that Sturges is not trying to stretch and get a bit fancy with the frame, and leans more toward the flashback angle, I think he is able to make it work with the overall story.

I would also say that there were a few nice character moments in this issue. There is a nice opening scene with the troll Tursig in which Sturges focuses on his issues of being a homosexual troll in a world not so tolerant – a well done scene all around. I also quite liked the scene between Algernon and the two ghosts for the fact that it creates some conspiracy and humanizes what has been a pretty two-dimensional character.

So, all around, a pretty good issue…but it is only one of many. As mentioned, I have been reading this one from the start with the mentality of “Oh, it’s Vertigo…it’ll pick up”. Honestly though, I have not been satisfied by much of this series because with every issue I felt I was getting more of the same thing: too many questions, scene changes and story concepts met with average execution. For a series to have the reader questioning, it is not a bad thing. I usually like when a series builds questions because those questions are what draw me back each month to continue reading. But, in the case of House of Mystery, I feel that the questions present are ones you do not want to have. Namely, what is the purpose of this book? Is it to explore these characters? If so, not doing a great job…more there in a second. No, seriously though, what is the point? Whenever an ongoing story begins – especially a Vertigo story – I like to have the point or the direction somewhat labeled within the first story arc. The idea (or ultimate goal) allows a reader to build a connecion with the work. I feel House of Mystery has not set any goals or really given any reason as to why it should be read. I feel like after twenty-two issues I have a very limited idea of the series purpose, and without that sense of direction my care for the project seems to lack.

If the point is character study, then the characters may want to be defined a bit more. A major heartbreak of this series is none of the characters offer up any reason as to why they do what they do. Every single one of them walks as a two-dimensional figure with no purpose or visible motivation. Yes, they are all stuck in this house and, yes, they all have tormented pasts, but does that explain why two specific characters fall in love? No. If so then all of these characters would love each other because they all originate from a similar setting. No, there are reasons why these characters act the way they do, yet Sturges and crew never really distinguish them. The creative forces leave these figures behind a veil as they rush something. All I want is to understand what makes these characters tick, so when they finally commit an action their motivation is clear. Maybe if the book had an opportunity to slow down, instead of jumping from the main story, to the frame, back to the main and then covering the entire cast, the author and the reader would have a chance to define the characters and the series itself and build a connection. Again, what is the point of reading if their is not a connection between the audience and the material? The characters of a story should be the relatable factor, and House of Mystery fails in that catagory.

Yes, number twenty-two was good, but at this point in the game, after plenty of poor attempts, I have lost my overall interest. After twenty-two issues I feel like I barely know the characters, the situation and the point. After twenty-two issues I feel like this series has lacked some serious steam. After twenty-two issues, I am calling it quits. Next time I will put into action that “six issue” rule on a Vertigo book.

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