REVIEW: Secrets of Sinister House #1

Written by Eric Cahill

Timed for that sweet, sweet holiday-themed release, ‘Secrets Of Sinister House’ is an anthology of all new stories featuring lots of fun work by very talented people. Some are names you see often and others don’t get a lot of spotlight. Whether it’s worth it depends on your appetite for this type of thing. As expected, most of the stories are one off adventures featuring the characters dealing with some kind of Halloween angled threat.

Considering the parameters of the DC universe and just how many assorted supernatural and costumed horrors populate the place, it seems like it can be a struggle to differentiate what’s a ‘Halloween’ story versus just another night in Gotham. And the creative purpose to these is muddled (the monetary one obvious). They do introduce larger audiences to certain characters they’re not necessarily familiar with but they typically either involve too much knowledge of continuity to count as a true introduction (like Red Rain Batman here) and also lack any real character depth (like the extremely rote Harley Quinn Adventure).

You do get a few stories effectively using the horror context, the better ones probably being the Deadman and Constantine adventures. But then again I’m a bit of a sucker for Red Rain Batman and I don’t really get my Deadman fix anywhere else so what you’d like in these is all about the context. But if you go into it expecting pretty slight stories, with one or two clever bits and generally fantastic art, you won’t be disappointed with the purchase. You have to expect at this point some throwaway crap about superheroes fighting evil pumpkins around this time of year anyway.

Luckily for us, there’s a Green Lantern story in here!  Written by Che Grayson and illustrated by Miguel Mendonça this is a quick one featuring someone’s favorite duo, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. And I gotta say, this story is doing exactly what it needs to do. In what is really the strongest overall piece in the anthology, our green goodies hang out and travel to space to deal with some nefarious happenings and encounter some spooky shenanigans. Basically Grayson does everything she can do in the limited space to get a horror story out of not just the GL concept but the actual characters he’s using. She has them investigate an issue of a murderous alien lurking aboard a spaceship. It of course reminds of other genre stuff we’ve all seen, like Alien in plot and Event Horizon in tone. So is it derivative? Maybe – but it’s also the perfect sort of horror story to tell about space cops and reminds that the Green Lantern concept can lend itself to basically any type of story in this setting. And Grayson does you one better by also including the unique horrors related to Jessica Cruz’s personal anxieties. Many would have done or the other, but in this little space we get both. That’s maximizing your writing space and it’s also just pretty frigging cool.
There’s something of a paint by numbers feel of quantity over quality to the story but credit where credit is due, this can stand as a template for a traditionally told Green Lantern space horror story.

And while the characters come across a little generic, that’s not exactly Grayson’s fault. They haven’t exactly had a ton of personality in general the last few years. But she does a good job getting into Jessica’s mind quickly and makes them both likeable characters. Most importantly she sells what is their greatest strength – their camaraderie. And of course their mutual obsessions with sweets. Comic superheroes are fantasies yadda yadda but these guys just would not look like that if they ate and lived the way we’ve seen them eat and live.

Often the best thing about these anthologies is the art and that’s absolutely the case overall, and particularly in this story. Mendonça draws some fun monster stuff and also handles the (admittedly minimal) action pretty well. Lots of energy and a real grasp of the type of storytelling needed. Safe but it works. My only real issue would be the generic nature of the “monsters” though I imagine considering the story is an homage and the small-ish nature of the project limits what you can do. And even so “Jessica’s monsters” are suitably upsetting.

Ultimately a lot is compacted into the story and it feels routine but it’s exactly the type of thing you’re looking for in a project like this. It gets in, gets out and looks good doing it. And at least it’s not evil space pumpkins. 

Secrets of Sinister House #1 gets a 4 out of 5

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