House of Mystery, Vol. 1: Room and Boredom by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked up House of Mystery because it was recommended to people who enjoyed Fables, and I can see the appeal. The concept is one of almost existential horror. Five people end up in a strange house, and they cannot leave its grounds. Essentially, they are trapped in a nightmare they can't wake up from. I have had those dreams where I can never get where I'm supposed to go, no matter how many diversions in direction I make. Finally I wake up out of sheer frustration and the futility of the effort. I liken the feeling of this to how the characters must have felt (or still do).
Inside the house is a bar where all sorts of beings (many not remotely human) can enter and drink and eat, and they can leave. They pay for their drinks by telling a story of their choice. The drama of this piece is processing the stories of the visitors, and learning why the five characters ended up in the house.
The newbie is Fig, and she has a very strange connection to the house. She designed it, in fact. A house of her dreams that she was told by her professor didn't make sense. Yet here it is. Despite the fact, she wants out of the house. She'll learn that she's not alone, but the other four have accepted the fact that they won't be leaving the house anytime soon.
The House of Mystery is a cleverly constructed creation in which this strange house and its trapped denizens set the framework for the explication of other stories, told by the visitors to the bar within the house. The stories are varied in tone. One in particular was very gruesome, bringing back memories of dealing with such a situation in real-life veterinary practice. Another takes a very different look at fairy tale princesses and their search for their true love prince--a jaundiced one at that. One is about a mafia assassin who gets the best of his would-be murderers. It's hard to pin these into one genre except by calling the sum total speculative fiction. The artwork conveys much in each story, and about the house and the five people who are trapped within it. This is one of those graphic novels where I trained my eye to examine everything in the picture, so I didn't miss anything important to the story. I liked that different drawing styles and inking/coloration, and lettering techniques are used in each story to convey a narrator change and also the distinct tone of each story.
It's hard to say exactly how I feel about this overall. 'Like' isn't the right word. Let's say I appreciate it for what it is, thus the four star rating. While not all the stories were to my personal taste, I was left with an overall positive feeling towards this graphic novel, and my interest has been perked in continuing this series.
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