After reading five less-than-stellar Halloween-centric anthologies over the last few weeks, plus a hugely disappointing and long-awaited epic novel, I was feeling a bit burnt out on anthologies and prose in general. The time had come to catch up on some comics in the hopes of breaking out of my reading slump, and the title that most appealed to me just so happened to be -- wait for it! -- another anthology. But, fuck it. This is a comic book anthology, and only 80 pages at that (i.e. a quick read, plus a different format). I had high hopes going in, and this thing fucking delivered, giving me exactly what I had wanted in the wake of lingering disappointment and failure from previous anthologies.
Working from plots by Keith Giffen, eight horror authors have assembled to script, and in some cases completely flip the script on, DC's most famous characters, putting them through the filter of various horror genre staples. We've got psychotic killers, ghosts, a slam-bang creature feature, and more in these eerie comics and tales to astonish.
BUMP IN THE NIGHT by Edward Lee
Edward Lee kicks off this anthology in grand fashion, delivering a Superman story that’s quite a far cry from the traditional big blue Boy Scout mainstay of DC lore. Howard Porter’s art serves this alien invasion story pretty well. It’s a bit rough looking and nicely suited for the dark night ahead at the Kent farm. This was a perfect way to open up this House of Horrors, and also serves as a nice warning to readers that these stories will most definitely not be your typical takes on DC Comics superhero icons.
MAN'S WORLD by Mary SanGiovanni
Mary SanGiovanni scripts a magnificent and powerful Wonder Woman in a violent story of possession. It’s quick and dirty, and I loved the heck out of it. 'Nuff said.
CRAZY FOR YOU by Bryan Smith & Brian Keene
Bryan Smith and Brian Keene pen a fun ol’ story of snapped sanity and a whole lotta murder. Bryan Smith needs to write more Harley Quinn, be it in-continuity or more horror, I don’t care, just get him to do more with this psycho gal. Kyle Baker’s art is a bit more roughly sketched than I usually care for, though, but I think it serves the story nicely, giving illustration to a man's frenetic mind. Good, good stuff right here.
LAST LAUGH by Nick Cutter
Nick Cutter writing a Vincent Price-like Batman? Oh sweet baby Jesus, fuck yes. Here, Cutter tackles the psychology of a man dressed like a bat, perpetually chasing a crazy killer clown. Rags Morales does a great job illustrating this descent into madness, and I dug the little touches he and colorist Lovern Kindzierski added to show the differences between the characters viewpoints.
BLACKEST DAY by Brian Keene
Brian Keene blazes hell with the Justice League as they square off against an apocalyptic outbreak on Earth while trapped in their Watchtower moon base. It’s a fun, fast-paced story with plenty of carnage. Scott Kolins does a good job with the art duties, and there’s a good amount of guts spilled under his pencils. I've also got a particular hankering from some Keene-written Constantine now, because how awesome would that be? (The answer, by the way, is very. Hint, hint, DC Comics!)
STRAY ARROW by Ronald Malfi
In the DC Rebirth, Green Arrow is a self-described Social Justice Warrior. Under Malfi's hand, he's a cold blood pscyho killer, in a city that drives its inhabitants insane. I had expected so much more from this pairing between author and superhero, and I think it could have been a lot better if the story’s femme fatale had gotten more room for development. The premise is dynamite, and I wish there had been more room to deliver on some of the story elements it hints at. Still, it's worth it for the wildly different spin on these familiar faces.
UNMASKED by Wrath James White
Holy shit, y'all. A serial killer and a giant monster are tearing apart Gotham in Wrath James White’s story. From the story's opening narration about a victim who has been degloved, I knew I was going to be right at home here. There’s a lot of craziness jammed into a handful of pages, and artist Tom Raney really knocks it out of the park with his delivery of the script's biggest shocker scene. God damn, I loved this one!
THE POSSESSION OF BILLY BATSON by Weston Ochse
Words have power and, in Weston Ochse’s script, one word in particular haunts Billy Batson. Howard Chaykin depicts 1970s New York and a punk-rocker-styled Batson with flair, keeping the story’s keyword in both the background, and front and center. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of depth to the story and it ends pretty abruptly. I must admit, though, I am not very familiar with the character in question here, which may have hindered my enjoyment a bit. The saving grace for me was the period-setting and how well rendered it was by Chaykin.
Although I didn't flat-out love every story in DC House of Horror #1, I found all of them to make for a fun reading, and the ones that I loved, I loved deeply. Keene and Company put some truly wonderful and unexpected twists on DC Comics staples, bringing in oodles of darkness, morbidity, and depravity (or at least as much DC has allowed them to get away with. I would absolutely love to see House of Horror continue as a Mature Readers or Vertigo title.). For sheer entertainment value alone, and the consistency of goods delivered throughout,, this one gets a five-star from me. This is the most flat-out fun read of October.
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