With the third issue of "House of Mystery" we're starting to see a pattern, and overall I must say it's rather pleasing. The third part of the opening storyline "Room and Boredom", this is in many ways the most House-centric issue to date. We're starting to really learn how the House of Mystery operates, and what the five people trapped inside are really like.
The most focus, of course, is on our protagonist (and new entrant to the house) Fig; after a strong debut in the first issue (with her escape from the mysterious duo pursuing her) she'd been a bit muted in the second issue, taking in her new situation. Here, though, we're once more getting a look into her strong will and personality that makes her a good lead for "House of Mystery". She's not content to accept her new status within the House, but at the same time she's not stupid or irrational about it.
We're also seeing more about why Fig is different than the other staffers of the House, which is nice. Not only because it shows why we should have her as a protagonist, of course, but because it makes the story really feel like it's heading somewhere. Her special link to the House is slowly getting expanded here, pieces of information offered up to the reader in dribs and drabs. And best of all, an unexpected character makes an appearance in this issue and makes things more interesting than ever. Matthew Sturges' writing here is hitting every note for me perfectly.
Luca Rossi's art continues to look great, too. I love the sharp squiggled edges that make up people's hair, for instance, or the slightly ramshackle interiors of the House that he so carefully draws. Every setting in "House of Mystery" under Rossi's brush is lush and full of detail, from alien jungle backyards to tiny spits of land. The interiors of "House of Mystery" are reason alone to buy the book.
My one complaint is that with each issue, the story-within-a-story of "House of Mystery" feels more and more distant from the rest of the issue. This month's addition (which is apparently also written by Sturges this month, although Bill Willingham's name was still on the cover) with Italian gangsters is innocent enough (if immensely predictable), but it doesn't seem to belong in "House of Mystery" at all aside for the chance to give Rossi a few less pages per month to draw, and to spotlight some admittedly very talented artists. I like Zachary Baldus' art, with its pale, photo-realistic stylings, but just like last month's story I found myself annoyed by its arrival rather than excited about its addition. Only the first issue's story with Ross Campbell's art seems to have been a worthwhile diversion so far; hopefully with time the book will be able to mesh the two together a bit more.
Despite the small hiccup in the middle, though, "House of Mystery" is one of my favorite Vertigo debuts in years. It's sharp and clever, and I'm genuinely eager to read the next issue as soon as I finish the current one. Here's to its mysteries continuing for a long time to come.