The final collection opens with a text summary of the entire series to date, a great idea that I don’t remember seeing before. Which still didn’t prevent me from feeling a bit disoriented at the beginning! The series just got awfully convoluted by the end. Lots of entertaining short stories as usual: they include the return of Bill Willingham, and Steven T. Seagle is reunited with artist Teddy Kristiansen (a return of sorts, as they collaborated on the Vertigo series House of Secrets, which was related to the House of Mystery series, if only by title). Other notable short story illustrators include Darwyn Cooke, David Lapham, Peter Snejbjerg, and Tony Akins. Much of the early part of the “Desolation” arc centers around Lotus Blossom, who was left in charge of the House in the previous arc. She’s got a magical group that wants her dead, including Cain, the original owner of the House. Meanwhile Fig Keele is confronting the Conception, and both storylines converge at the climax. The series gets two epilogue issues. The first is “Closing Time,” which explains what became of all of the characters in the series after the climax. The second, “Three For The Road,” explains what became of the House of Mystery. Well, kind of, anyway. Say what you will about the series: it’s rare to get such a complete conclusion to an ongoing Vertigo series these days.
Eddie Campbell’s latest, The Lovely Horrible Stuff: my book about money, is really two graphic essays: the only thing they have in common is the subject of money. The first part (“and how he got that way”) deals with money and family matters. Pretty funny, as always, despite describing some very uncomfortable events. Much of the narrative centers around the production of a television series based on Campbell’s autobiographical comics. Hilarity ensues, until the production becomes a victim of 2008’s worldwide recession. Then there’s the matter of a loan to his father-in-law, something that was always unlikely to end well. In the second part (“Yap”) the Campbells travel to the tiny Pacific island of Yap, famous for its stone money. You might expect this to be played for a joke, but Campbell interviews historians and presents a serious history of the stone money. At the same time he tells stories about his fellow travellers, integrating the personal with the universal in the trademark Campbell style. There’s no one else like him.
Jack Joseph (the title character) is dealing with a lot of emotional baggage, ultimately all related to family life. It’s nearly Halloween (when his father drowned), and his wife is about to give birth to their first child. Jack can’t stand to be in town on Halloween, so he heads out to an offshore oil rig for his welding job. He’s been experiencing frequent time shifts, and during his first dive he has an experience that sends him back home on medical leave. Haunted by the need to understand what happened, Jack goes back out for another dive. This is when the Introduction’s comparisons to The Twilight Zone really kick in. Jack finds out what truly being alone feels like, which makes him appreciate the life he has. He is able to stop looking back (“I look in the mirror, and see my Dad looking back at me”) and look forward to a future with his wife and child. I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Lemire’s Essex County series.
There was so much buzz around this book that it was harder than usual to wait for the trade collection. I did a good job keeping myself spoiler-free, because I had almost no idea what to expect, beyond the basic premise. It’s the story of a young family trying to find their place in a universe that is wracked by an endless galactic war. It starts at the beginning, quite literally, with Alana giving birth, attended by her husband Marko. There’s periodic commentary by an omniscient narrator, who we soon discover is their newborn child. If you stop to think about it, this telegraphs the long-term survival of the baby: but that doesn’t prevent the next events from having plenty of tension. The lovers have been betrayed, and find themselves on the run. In the course of the following issues we learn about the nature of the war, and meet a number of extravagantly designed aliens, including the aristocratic Robot class who have small television sets for heads. It’s very good, but maybe my expectations have been raised to an impossible height, because I’m not blown away. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think maybe the fact that the story is so…domestic is what’s throwing me off. It’s really a family drama, for all the alien trappings, and the conclusion of issue 6 makes it look likely to become even more so. But I still enjoyed it very much, and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next.