Thursday, April 8, 2010

House of Mystery Vol 3: The Space Between
by Matthew Sturges

I must admit, before working at a public library, I didn’t read graphic novels.  The few I had been exposed to via friends were mostly manga aimed at teens, which I didn’t particularly care for.  However, graphic novels are incredibly difficult to stay away from in my library, and eventually a series called Fables by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges caught my eye, and I decided to give it a try.  I loved it.  Eventually, the library started collecting House of Mystery, which is also by Matthew Sturges and for which Willingham does occasional stories.  I decided to bite.

This is the third, and newest, collected edition of the series.  It’s put out by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, is based on the ‘classic’ series of the same name.  The comic centers around the House of Mystery itself, which is located somewhere in the Dreaming.  The House occasionally changes its look and rearranges its interior on a fairly regular basis.  The House serves as a crossroads, or a way point, between worlds.  People from various worlds know which door to open in their own world to find themselves entering a bar area in the House of Mystery.  There, for the price of a story, they may eat and drink with people from worlds they’ve never seen or heard of.  The bar is tended by Harry, who cannot leave the House.  He has no memory of what his life was before he awoke in the House.  Harry is joined by Poet, the cook, Cress and Fig the barmaids, and Ann the bouncer, all of whom also cannot leave the house.  In between patron stories, the underlying plot of the book is about what the House of Mystery is, and how can the five main characters escape it.  We know that every once in a while a bar worker will leave, but we don’t know why or where they go after they are taken away in an old fashioned coach.

The Space Between focuses on Harry’s back story, the ability to cross over between worlds, and establishes villains.  In the earlier two volumes, we had been offered glimpses of something called the Conception, and in this volume that’s filled out a tad more.  We also get our first look at Cain, who was the original proprietor of the House and has been mysteriously absent in the first two volumes.  In explaining crossing over, we get a better idea of who Fig is, since we know from earlier volumes that until becoming stuck in the House, she crossed between worlds fairly regularly.

Over all, I’m enjoying this series.  I find the five main characters and their regulars interesting.  My favorite (and I don’t assign favorites very often) is Ann, who is a red headed, saber swinging female pirate captain.  We have yet to actually see her need to bounce anyone out of the bar, but she is the major fighter in the group during the obligatory action scenes.  Fantastic.


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