Lucky Number 13


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Usually, people avoid the number 13 like a plague. But for House of Mystery, it’s cause for a celebration featuring some of the most legendary names in the industry.  

Triskaidekaphobia is the name given to the fear of the number 13. It is one of the oldest and most common phobias. It is the reason why most hotels skip from floor 12 to floor 14 and why people dread whenever Friday the 13th comes up on the calendar.

This superstition is centuries old and holds a great deal of power even today. But there are people who think it is just superstition and put no accounting in it. However, Vertigo is taking a new attitude towards the number—they have decided to celebrate it.

This week, House of Mystery begins its second year with its 13th issue. While 13 issues isn’t normally a cause for celebration in the world of comics, it is for this title. And they are going all out for the occasion, bringing in some of the most legendary names in comic book history to work on the issue.

While the current incarnation is just over a year old, the House of Mystery has been a part of DC comics for over five decades. It got its start in the 1950s as DC tried to tap into the burgeoning horror trend started by EC Comics. Even though the tales were much tamer than other examples of comic book horror, it suffered from the anti-horror backlash of the 50s.

It turned away from horror and began running more conventional superhero fare. It was in this title where the early appearances of Martian Manhunter took place and “Dial ‘H’ for Hero”  was able to find a home.

In 1968, former EC creator Joe Orlando was brought on to edit the book, and the title made its return to horror. The stories took on a serious and atmospheric tone, more mature than the kind that the title housed in the 50s, but not too mature as to get the Comics Code on their cases.

The series became a stopping ground for a list of the greatest artists and writers of the day. Artists such as Bernie Wrightson, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Sergio Aragones, Neal Adams and others provided the atmospheric art for the tales of terror.

This format lasted for the next 15 years before the series was cancelled in 1983. It was revived briefly three years later as Elvira’s House of Mystery before going off the shelf for over a decade.

Some say House of Mystery laid the groundwork for the Vertigo imprint. Vertigo editor-in-chief Karen Berger got her first editing assignment on the series, and when some of the classic stories were reprinted in 1998, it fell under the Vertigo banner. Taking that into consideration, it would only be natural that the latest series find a home at Vertigo.

The current House of Mystery is an interesting decendant to the original series. Like the original, it presents stories of horror framed by a narrative by a reoccurring cast of characters. Unlike the original, the framing sequence is an ongoing storyline detailing the lives of people trapped in the House and their attempts to deal with that fact.

The House is now a bar where cash is not used for payment, only stories. Each issue features a break in the action as one of the guests tells a story as a form of payment. These stories within a story are usually done by guest artists such as Wrightson and Kyle Baker, to name two.

The format will continue with tomorrow’s issue, only all the stories will deal with the number 13. Three legendary artists from the series’ original run will be on board—Ralph Reese, Sergio Aragones and the Neal Adams. They will be joined by a modern master of creepy horror, Eric Powell. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, now would be a good time to start.

Also out this week:

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1

Lockjaw! Redwing! Lockheed! Frog Thor! Hairball! Five of the toughest pets that Marvel has to offer! United for the first time on a mission that only they can do! With the fate of the universe at stake, there’s a chance things might get hairy, but it’s definitely going to get furry!

You know what? This concept is so goofy that you just have to love it. From adding “Avengers” on the title (like fans of the New, Mighty or Dark Avengers will really think this will tie-in with those books) to the look on Lockjaw’s face on the cover, I can’t see how this series cannot be a blast! Since Chris Eliopoulos has made a name with goofy humor with his Franklin Richards series, you know it will be funny too! 

Chris Eliopoulos (W), Ig Guara (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Fusion #1

Intercompany crossovers, once very prevalent in the late 90s, early 00s, have gone a bit out of style. There is a cold war between DC and Marvel over the subject. Dark Horse isn’t really lending its Alien and Predator franchise out as much anymore, and other companies haven’t been big into the idea either.

This is not to say that there aren’t crossovers. Every once in a while, we get a team-up between heroes from different companies.  Several years back Marvel made an agreement with Top Cow to share some characters in exchange for some Top Cow artists to work for Marvel. This week brings another crossover, this time with members of the Thunderbolts and the Mighty Avengers tussling with Cyberforce.

Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (W), Tyler Kirkham (A), Top Cow/Image Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Unthinkable #1

The attacks on September 11, 2001 caught America unawares. The government never thought an attack of that sort could ever happen the way it did or be so successful. Rumor has it, that, in order not to have the same thing happen again, the government hired writers to try and come up with various ways Al Qaida could strike at the U.S. again.
This series takes a conspiracy minded look at that idea. Alan Ripley is one of those writers who thought up an unthinkable terrorist plan. Now members of his think tank are getting killed off, and it looks like the plan he thought up might actually be put into action. Ripley must now stay one step ahead of his assassin while trying to make sure his plan never comes into effect.

Mark Sable (W), Julian Totino Tedesco (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

The Unwritten #1

Harry Potter is a worldwide sensation. It has made JK Rowling a billionaire and the series of novels have changed the cultural landscape forever. Now imagine Harry Potter was based on a real person, and that person was cashing in on that fact. He would become a celebrity of sorts and be able to make a good living going to book signings and conventions.

That concept is what this new series is built around. Tommy Taylor was the inspiration for a boy wizard like Harry. Only, what he thought was a piece of fiction might not be one after all. Does magic really exist? Is Tom really a wizard? And if he isn’t, why does that ancient faction have him in their sights.

Vertigo is trying new things with their new series, releasing the first issues at the amazingly cheap price of $1. With Vertigo, even the worst offering has something of interest. At this price, how can you refuse to give this a shot?

Mike Carey (W), Peter Gross (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $1.00. Ongoing Series.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6

The family is all together now in 1963 and converging on Dealey Plaza. Half the team are there to make sure JFK is assassinated, the other half is there to stop it—by any means necessary. It’s sibling rivalry on an epic scale—with all history in the balance. One way or another, changes are on the way and nothing will ever be the same.

Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá have successfully avoided the sophomore jinx. This volume of Umbrella Academy was as good if not better than the first. However, I could be biased. Time Travel, parodoxes, cowboy Gods, and cartoon headed assassins are right up my alley. Pick up the series from the back issue bin and see if you get the same results.

Gerard Way (W), Gabriel Bá (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Wolverine #73

No, your comic shop didn’t skip an issue on you. Marvel has decided to release #73 of this series, which features the start of two new arcs, ahead of #72, which was the penultimate chapter of Millar and McNiven’s “Old Man Logan” storyline.

I’m not exactly clear on why Marvel did this. Conventional wisdom says it’s to have a new storyline in the Wolverine book to coincide with the X-Men Origins Wolverine film. But considering that there are about 200,000 other Wolverine books that just started, movie fans have plenty of a selection to jump on to. 

Regardless, do you think this is embarrassing for McNiven and especially Millar (because, let’s face it, artists get blamed a lot, but name me a Mark Millar book that actually stayed on schedule) that Marvel had to go to this length to make up for their lateness?

Jason Aaron & Daniel Way (W), Adam Kubert & Tommy Lee Edwards (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Astro Boy Movie Prequel: Underground #1

If you are not familiar with Astro Boy by now, then I don’t know what you have been doing for the last 50 years. Even people who are not fans of Anime, Manga or Japan know this national icon. For years, he was arguably the most famous representative of Japanese cartooning, and has influenced a wide array of creative types the world over.
Now, 58 years after his debut, Astro Boy is getting a full length CGI film to star in, set to debut later this year. IDW surely will have the adaptation to that film, because, this week, they are presenting us with a prequel one-shot. The issue focuses on Astro Boy as he travels to a subterranean kingdom in search of his father.

Scott Tipton (W), Diego Jourdan (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. One-Shot.

Unknown #1

Catherine Allingham is the person you want to go to when you have a mystery to solve. Billed as the smartest woman alive, she is the world’s greatest and most famous private investigator. But as good as she is, there is one case that she cannot solve. But that is not going to stop her. She’ll crack this case, even if it kills her!

Mark Waid is known as one of the best superhero writers around, but let’s not forget his work at CrossGen. His Sherlock Holmes-like Ruse was one of the best comics that company had to offer. That being said, you know he can write detectives. So, if you were worrying about picking up this non-superhero title, don’t be. Odds are this one is going to be great.

Mark Waid (W), Minck Oosterveer (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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