Fantasy Trade Post: House Of Mystery Volume 4 & The Return Of King Doug

House Of Mystery Volume 4: The Beauty Of Decay (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges with Bill Willingham, drawn by Luca Rossi, Werther Dell’Edera & Jose Marzan Jr. with Jeff Lemire, Richard Corben, Al Davison, Antonio Fuso & Michael W.M. Kaluta
Collects House Of Mystery #16-20, HOM Halloween Annual #1

House Of Mystery pretty quickly became my favorite ongoing Vertigo book. I had fallen off the 100 Bullets wagon (though I’m re-reading it right now) and never tried Fables (felt like too much to get through to catch up) and it certainly helped that it’s a fantastic book that takes bits and pieces of the old school horror comics that it takes it’s name from and, of course, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. If you’re unfamiliar with the basic HOM concept, it’s actually a bar that’s in it’s own dimension where people from various times and realities come together to share a drink. Some of them are stuck there and they make up the main cast, but in order for the other folks to get drinks, they have to tell a story which is written by a combination of series writer Sturges and Bill Willingham with a new artist every time. These stories are fantastic because they really expand on traditional stories and do something new.

This volume focuses on heroine Fig and her fellow residents of the House trying to figure out why they can’t leave. It’s not a good volume to start off with because it’s pretty steeped in what had proceeded in the previous volumes (check out my reviews of 2 and 3, if you’re curious) and explores a lot of the relationships between the main cast and each other as well as with some of the more iconic looking regulars. The series takes such a turn that I actually thought this might be the final collection in the series, but was glad to discover there are three more. Reading this volume made me not only want to go back and read everything all together and see what happens next, which means it’s a pretty damn good installment.

The Return Of King Doug (Oni)
Written by Greg Erb & Jason Oremland, drawn by Wook-Jin Clark
Graphic Novel

The Return Of King Doug was passed my why by my pal Rickey Purdin this summer. I checked out the cover and it looked interesting but I put it in my to read box along with tons of other trades and wasn’t sure when I would get to it. A few weeks back, I was flipping through said box, came across this book and thought, “What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.” And oh my goodness, I’m glad I did because this was a fantastically fun book that takes “real world kid in a fantasy world” conventions and updates them while also flipping a good deal of them on their ear.

We start off with a kid named Doug in a fantastical world where he’s being pumped up as this huge savior against an evil leader. He seems into it and then, all of a sudden, he runs away because he can’t deal with the pressure. Cut to Doug in his 30s, he’s a pretty huge loser with a son and winds up heading to his parents’ property that housed the portal to the fantasy land. As you’d expect, his son winds up finding the place and gets wrapped up in the ongoing drama of the people versus the evil leader and Doug has to figure out how he’s going to save his son and whether he’s going to help these guys out.

The book’s sense of humor is what really made me fall in love with this book. You’ve got lots of fun pop culture references and grown-up Doug is genuinely funny. Plus, the art is just wonderful. Clark has a very thin line that reminds me stylistically of Jeff Smith on Bone, though they don’t necessarily look similar (if that makes sense). To me, it’s kind of a mix of Princess Bride and Bone with some Scott Pilgrim sensibilities in there. If you like any of those things, do yourself a favor and pick up The Return Of King Doug, but you can’t have mine cause I’m going to keep it and pass it around to friends.

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