DC House of Horror #1 review 

Baby Kal-El crashes in Kansas and kills Jonathan and Martha Kent. 

A girl goes on a murder spree, possessed by the spirit of Wonder Woman. 

A Gotham City worker slaughters his wife, egged on by a spectral Harley Quinn. 

Bruce Wayne is taunted by the voice of the Joker, the one villain he can never escape. 

A zombified Barry Allen bites off more than he can chew when he faces Hal Jordan, the last man standing on the JLA satellite. 

Serial slayer Oliver Queen meets his match after caging Dinah Lance. 

One of the good people of Gotham finds another side to himself as a monster attacks the city. 

Billy Batson breaks up with his girlfriend because he fears he’s going to kill her, driven mad by an inner voice urging him to say the magic word...

Well, that was horrible all right. DC’s Hallowe’en offering to us is an 80pp giant featuring eight stories that twist some of DC’s best-loved characters to no good end. There’s little suspense, not much in the way of mounting creepiness, it’s page after page of people going mad, innocents being murdered. The one story that does offer a mystery, the Gotham DA tale, is skewered by the credits page telling us who the star is. 

Despite solicitations claiming this is a DCU book, we’re definitely in Elseworlds territory, so maybe it’s OK that Martha Kent isn’t the kind, god-fearing woman we’re used to - she’s rather a mean soul. 

But some of the decisions are so random as to be distracting. Why does the Two-Face story involve a giant bug? What’s with the Kryptonian ‘soundtrack’ on the so-called Superman story? Why does Black Canary stay caged for three days when she has the power to scream her way out? What’s up with Wonder Woman being dead enough to be summoned by a ouija board? Why is Billy Batson dressed like he’s going to the Folsom Street Fair? 

The actual craft of the book deserves praise. Artists include veteran masters Scott Kolins, Howard Porter and Howard Chaykin, and talented tyro Bilquis Evley. The scripters are authors of horror fiction, none of whom I’m familiar with, but they must know the genre. The storytelling on both counts is pretty good, for example, scripter Nick Cutter gels excellently with Rags Morales on the Batman entry. Heck, Kyle Baker’s full-colour art and lettering style on the piece featuring Harley Quinn - it’s not a Harley Quinn story - is a splendid homage to EC Comics. 

Where the book may have gone wrong is in not letting the guest writers go their own way; instead, every story is plotted by longtime DC artist-writer Keith Giffen. Normally an ideas machine, here Giffen fails to bring variety to the table - it’s your heroes, but they’re killing! Don’t listen to the voices! And despite the short page count per tale, around ten pages, the single ideas are really drawn out. Here’s Martha being stalked and chased and terrorised... Harley Quinn whispers at Chuck that yes, of course he’s a crazed killer like her, for page after page... The worst offender is the Shazam short, which does build tension as a grumpy Billy tries to ignore the insidious voice, you do wonder what Chaykin’s dark Captain Marvel will look like. But we don’t get to see... Billy yells the word on what turns out to be the final page, and this is the arresting image. 

Sarcasm intended. Have I spoiled that for anyone? Apologies if so, but it’s the last page of an incredibly unsatisfactory comic. The Martha story closes with the monstrous baby flying off into the air, the Wonder Woman tale stops with the girl still possessed... I figured each story was a chapter of a whole, that we were building to something. Nope, these are simply nasty vignettes. It really does feel like Giffen, and DC, are taking the piss.

Even the cover by Michael William Kaluta, coloured by Lovern Kindzierski, isn’t as brilliant as the images he regularly supplied to DC’s old mystery line. 

I hate to publish such a negative review, but by cracky, I love DC’s old spooky books. I’m a massive superhero booster. I’ve read plenty of terrific genre mash-ups down the decades. I’m a huge defender of Keith Giffen’s more out-there work. The artists in this book are all good to superb. I’m open to discovering new writers. So why did this $9.99 special leave me progressively more depressed, and finally angry?

Did I miss something? 

DC House of Horror #1 review


  1. I love the DC horror tradition. The core DC characters have origins that are a half-click away from horror themselves. This is a natural, so it is a shame that it went awry.

    1. That’s a good point... what if Hal Jordan was horribly hurt in the experimental plane crash, or Barry Allen became a scarred horror, or Diana was indeed the Goldm people so often accuse her of being...

  2. Sorry this one didn't work for you, Mart. Once I got into the swing of it as an Elseworlds, I embraced the horror aspects of the traditional DC heroes and enjoyed seeing where they went.

    I didn't find Martha to be so mean, really -- just frustrated with a husband who wasn't where he'd said he'd be, and was probably off drinking with the neighbor. And as for Wonder Woman, my impression was that she's an Amazon spirit from long ago, not that Diana had existed in the recent past in the way we knew her.

    Anyway, my faves were probably the Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Batman, and JLA stories (the last one being the closest we get to our traditional heroes). I agree that I wish the TOC hadn't spoiled the star of "Unmasked,"...although the Batman story was pretty
    much the same thing, done better. And yeah, what was up with the giant bug?

    1. I’m glad you liked the book, Rob. I guess I don’t see the ‘horror aspects of traditional DC heroes’. I’m keen to see them in horror stories, but not BE the horrors.

    2. That's actually what I was looking for when I picked it up, too. I guess another way of saying it was that I liked seeing how the stories took the premises of these superhero stories -- alien stranded on earth, an ancient amazon warrior, etc. -- and going a completely different direction with them.

      There's a book of SF short stories called Mash Up that I recently bought for a friend. All the stories opened with a famous line from a well-known work of literature, and then veered off into inspiring a new original story. That's the spirit in which I took these tales; half of me was reading them as horror stories, and then half of me was admiring how the storytellers chose and tweaked elements from the canon to complete the assignment.

    3. Mash Up sounds fascinating. Oi, Santa!


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