REVIEW: DC House of Horror #1

October brings cooler weather, pumpkin everything, colorful trees, and by the end of the month, blood curdling tales of terror. DC has gotten in on the shenanigans this year with DC House of Horror #1, which brings us eight delicious stories to frighten and delight. Similar to most annual editions, some of the included material is wonderful, but not all tales left me longing for more.
Eight writers were given plots by Keith Giffen to share their Horror filled visions based on one of the characters in the DC universe. It’s a great concept that throws caution to the wind. Universe be damned, this is more like a creative writing assignment where the instructions were to simply go forth and make it scary and creepy. Each story deserves individual analysis, so dear Crusaders, here we go.

Bump In The Night: Written by Edward Lee, Art by Howard Porter
A young Superman lands in Smallville, and has a new sort of greeting for the Kent family. This is a solid offering that gets the comic off to a smashing start. The concept is solid and Edward Lee impresses with a good script. Similar to Red Son, which shows us a world where Superman landed in Soviet Russia, this story shows the boy of steel with one hell of an anger issue. Nice work.

Man’s World: Written by Mary SanGiovanni, Art by Bilquis Evely
Four teens find a Ouija board and reach out to spirits from the netherworld, thinking it’s all just good clean fun. One of them becomes enchanted with the spirit of an amazon princess we all know and love. This story of possession is one of my top selections in the book. Mary SanGiovanni gives us a bewildering tale of a young girl who suddenly finds herself with all the powers of Wonder Woman, without the moral compass to guide her. It’s an interesting concept. Kudos.

Crazy For You: Written by Bryan Smith & Brian Keene, Art by Kyle Baker
This is my favorite story in the collection by far. Here, we find an employee of a demolition crew who is working on the destruction of Arkham Asylum, only to meet the ghost of Harley Quinn, who entices him to embrace his darker, wild side. He finds himself doing things, evil things, and he seems to have lost the ability to stop. Smith and Keene have taken their plot and written a well-rounded story that deserves attention. They’ve taken the mischief in Harley to a whole new level, and they did so from beyond the grave. Tremendous job.

Last Laugh: Written by Nick Cutter, Art by Rags Morales
This story made me pause. It caused an emotional outburst that I normally don’t have while reading comics. I’m not sure if it’s a Batman story, a Joker story, or maybe a little bit of both. Ultimately it deals with abuse, insanity, and suicide, which for such a short offering, was a little too much to take. The topics are dark, the ending even darker. I think Nick Cutter did a fine job of writing this script, but gave a glimpse into a very dark soul in the process. Good solid work….but damn.

Blackest Day: Written by Brian Keene, Art by Scott Kolins
Brace yourself for the zombie apocalypse, Justice League style. The Flash was bitten and contracted “the virus”. You know, the one that turns all humans into zombies. This story was ok, but conceptually was similar to Marvel Zombies. It was certainly not one of my favorites but did give Hal Jordan some time in the spotlight. Brian Keene had some good ideas on this, and maybe with more pages to work with, would have been able to expand on the plot to make it more interesting. We’re left with a story that feels underdeveloped and simply depends on Hal trying to stay human.

Stray Arrow: Written by Ronald Malfi, Art by Dale Eaglesham
The Green Arrow has finally lost it. The city beat him and now he’s acting as judge, jury, and executioner. We can add kidnapper to his list of sins with this story by Ronald Malfi. While he thinks he’s helping someone who, in his eyes, truly needs him, he learns the truth could not be any more different. There is a wit to this story which helps it climb toward the top of my favorites in this collection. Solid writing, and a good twist.

Unmasked: Written by Wrath James White, Art by Tom Raney
In this Two-Face story, there is a giant mantis type creature wreaking havoc on Gotham City, while there is a killer on the loose who is cutting people’s faces off. It is Gotham after all. While the police and military try to destroy the creature, the citizens of the city make their way into Gotham Stadium, which was built to withstand a nuclear war. The killer decides to start exposing the “true faces” of the people of Gotham while mayhem ensues. To me, this was the least enjoyable story in the book. I found no correlation between the creature attacking the city and the killer, making the concept very disjointed.

The Possession of Billy Batson: Written by Weston Ochse, Art by Howard Chaykin
The horror collection ends with a bang as we meet teenage Billy Batson. He’s a punk who pushes people away because he is afraid of what he might do to them. In a subway station, he is approached by an old man who gives him a piece of paper, and asks him to say the word written on it. Being the punk he is, he refuses, and starts hearing voices call to him, begging him to say the word. He sees it everywhere he looks.
The concept, of being Shazam via possession is brilliant. The way Weston Ochse has this story unfold is fun and really made me want more. I can’t think of a better ending to this story, or this comic.

The DC House of Horror is a fun comic that has its ups and downs. I would recommend picking it up simply for the odd concepts it presents with familiar characters. There are truly some talented writers on display as well which I’m sure we’ll hear from again.

(W) Keith Giffen, Brian Keene, Weston Ochse (A) Rags Morales, Bilquis Evely, Howard Porter, Scott Kolins, Dale Eaglesham (CA) Michael William Kaluta

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