"House of Mystery" #15, to put it mildly, utterly changed the series. The reader got to find out what was imprisoning our main characters inside the House of Mystery, and such a revelation upset the status quo so that the House and the continual rotation of storytellers was turned upside down. So why, then, does this issue feel like such a let down?
I understand that after giving up so much information last month, Matthew Sturges might have felt the need to slow the pace of the story a bit. This feels more like a full stop, though; what initially looks to be setting the stage for where the cast has landed instead drags on a bit too long, with all momentum having ceased. On the bright side, Luca Rossi's pencils are beautiful as ever, detailing the bleak new landscape as well as a great two-page spread showing the current structure of the House of Mystery.
While the main story has ground to a halt, though, the real reason to read "House of Mystery" #16 is for Bill Willingham and Richard Corben's story of a couple trapped in a far-away mansion and the mysterious guardians that keep them alive. It reminds me of the old-fashioned horror anthologies that "House of Mystery" gets its name from, and in the best possible way. It's bleak, it's creepy, and the 10 pages use their length perfectly. Corben gives the story a vintage look, and along with Lee Loughridge's colors it's just the right sort of grim story to sear itself into your brain.
Normally, it's the main story in "House of Mystery" that catches my interest, with the story-within-a-story varying from acceptable to fun. Here, though, the tables are most definitely turned. I'm hoping next month kicks up the action again in "House of Mystery" because the lead is normally much more interesting than this latest installment. Still, though, it's nice to know that even when one half of the book slips, the other is ready to pick up the slack.