I'd actually forgotten that "House of Mystery" #13 was a special 13th-issue-anniversary detour when I picked up the latest issue of the series. While I was expecting a continuation of the stories of Fig and company, what I actually got was three unrelated horror stories; in other words, exactly what "House of Mystery" used to be back in the olden days.
On the plus side, the stories aren't bad. Matthew Sturges' "The Thirteenth Hour" is the strongest of the three, when a young man takes his girlfriend up to the top of Coit Tower in San Francisco to reveal to her the extra hour that appears every day in which the world is destroyed and then reborn, but which only he can remember. Sturges' tale keeps just the right level of mystery running through the piece, and Eric and Misaki's journey across the city towards the climax of the story kept my attention the entire time. Ralph Reese's art here is handsome, looking almost geometric in places as he draws San Francisco's cityscape being destroyed by massive monsters. If Reese wants to come back down the line to draw another "House of Mystery" story, he'd be quite welcome at this end; he and Sturges have a good collaboration here.
Bill Willingham's script for "The Lace Anniversary" is all right, but comes across feeling a little rushed. It's got all the hallmarks of a creepy story; a mysterious gift shop, the 13th anniversary, and a huge number of 13s peppered throughout the script. With just seven pages, though, it needs a little more breathing room; the climax of the story could have used even one more page to not seem so sudden and ending in the blink of an eye. On the bright side, though, new painted art by "The Goon"'s Eric Powell is always welcome from me; I love his usage of color and how it's both bright and creepy, and he can draw one wickedly unnerving shopkeeper.
Chris Roberson, Neal Adams, and Josh Adams contribute the last story, which felt to me the least like an old-school "House of Mystery" contribution. Unlike the first two, there's no real horror or even dark element. It's a rather light and brisk story, and certainly the only one with a happy ending. I think it's because of that happy ending, though, that it does get some charity from me. It's a good enough way to round out the story, and both father and son in the Adams family turn out some nice art. The book rounds out with an activity page drawn by Sergio Aragones; the draw here is, of course, seeing Aragones draw a non-light-and-fluffy piece. That said, I found myself wishing he'd gotten a larger part of the comic. Still, a cute ending to the book.
I have to say, though, at the end of the issue I found myself wishing this had been an Annual instead of a regular issue of the comic. For people who've been reading the previous twelve issues of "House of Mystery" it's a little frustrating to have nothing happen this month. And if you weren't reading "House of Mystery" but come on board for this issue, it's certainly not a good representation of what the comic is normally all about. Ultimately, as a one-off it's not bad, but here's hoping in the future this sort of experiment is saved for a slightly more appropriate venue.