Bill Willingham have a good thing going in their revival of the “House of Mystery” series: staying true to the original’s spirit while reworking it into something uniquely their own. Were a real-estate ad for the abode to exist, it might read something like: “Infinite bed/bath, renters must sign contract for eternity.”
As explained in “House of Mystery: Room & Boredom,” the first trade-paperback collection of the monthly Vertigo title, the old, spacious structure sits at a dimensional crossroads. While its bar is open to all, the remainder of the space is navigable only by its five residents, who are doomed to stay there seemingly forever. This, newcomer Fig, finds out the hard way “ her every attempt at escape foiled by mysterious spiritual forces.
She finds herself trapped in the very place she has long dreamt about, with its halls and staircases twisting and turning like a labyrinth. The only respite lies in the communal pub, where debts are paid through stories rather than coins.
In each of the five issues here, the narrative breaks away for a patron to tell his or her tale, which keeps “Mystery” fresh, and readers hooked. These shorts entail everything from a gory fairy tale and an underwater fantasy to a mob yarn and snarky sci-fi, all illustrated by a guest artist.
While the first issue was good, the whole concept isn’t properly set up until the second. By the time you reach the end of the fifth here, you’re ready to move in for more.