Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!
*Looks around the room with a smile of satisfaction* Yep, yep. . . a mighty fine Halloween party this year. A MIGHTY fine party indeed. We're all the way up to part TWELVE.
There's been a clunker here and there, and that's to be expected, but overall, the Longbox Junk 2023 Halloween Horror Marathon has been going along very nicely.
So let's keep things going with a look at a. . .Halloween comic. Wait, what?
SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #5
COVER: Bernie Wrightson
It's by Bernie Wrightson. It's good. That's a given. But this isn't just a GOOD Halloween cover, this is a GREAT Halloween cover! If I had to pick out a top ten list of Halloween covers, this one would definitely be somewhere on it. Let's get inside this thing!
THREE stories for one quarter. That's like eight cents a story! AND a Bernie Wrightson cover? THAT'S some good value right there, folks. Let's check these stories out one at a time.
SCRIPT: Bill Reilly & Guy Lillian
PENCILS: John Albano
INKS: Vince Colletta
Kirk Cordell was a mob hitman. One of the fastest guns around, and he knew it. He often imagined himself as a legendary quick-draw gunfighter in the old west. On this stormy night, we follow Kirk as he goes to visit his old friend, Neal. There's a hit out on Neal and, friend or not, Kirk is going to be the one to collect.
Neal welcomes his friend, but quickly learns what Kirk's business with him is. Kirk allows Neal to go for his gun for old time's sake, but Neal doesn't have a chance against Kirk's speed.
Seeing some potential witnesses outside, Kirk decides to wait a while before leaving. He settles in for a nap, with his friend's dead body, still clutching his pistol, laying nearby.
As he dozes, Kirk has a horrific nightmare of death itself challenging the hitman to a gunfight! It's a gunfight that Kirk loses. The sound of a shot brings the police, where they find the two dead men. They're confused as to how Neal was able to kill Kirk after being dead for an hour.
The Medical Examiner tells them it was rigor mortis. Neal's contracting muscles pulled the trigger.
Or DID they? DUN-DUN-DUNNNN!
Okay, not a bad start. It's a pretty enjoyable little "Death from beyond the grave" story that would be right at home as an old Twilight Zone episode. I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as a "Halloween Shocker" as advertised on the cover, but it's still a decent little story. The art is also very nice, with lots of detail and a good sense of movement. Overall, a good start to the issue!
WHAT AM I BID?
SCRIPT: Arnold Drake
PENCILS: Tenny Henson
INKS: Tenny Henson
Peggy Marlow was beautiful and ruthless. An auction agent procuring only the best items, and not afraid of using any underhanded method she needed to get the sale.
But Peggy was also a bit careless, and people started to notice items missing, or fake items being sold, with the profits going missing. But still, Peggy was the best, and so the auction house still used her.
But at an auction in Paris, Peggy is caught red-handed selling a fake Persian vase for an huge sum. The owner of the actual vase blackmails Peggy in exchange for his not revealing her. She will conduct an auction for him.
And so Peggy travels to the isolated Arabian kingdom of Sakbar, where she finds herself in a palatial palace. The auction is to take place at midnight.
Peggy is a bit confused about the revealing outfit she is expected to wear, but is told that it is tradition in that country. As she is led to the auction, Peggy is horrified to discover that it is HER that is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder!
Not a bad little story, overall. But, like the first, I'm finding it hard to connect this little tale of a woman who reached too hard and paid the price with Halloween. Hmmmm. . .MAYBE I shouldn't believe everything I see on the cover of a comic book. Go figure. The story is pretty good, but the main draw here is the gorgeous artwork! It has that certain Bronze Age style that didn't seem to last very long. . .a sort of flowing pop art look that I really like a lot!
So, not a Halloween story, but not bad. NEXT!
THE STARS, LIKE PALLBEARERS
SCRIPT: David Michelinie
PENCILS: Ernie Chan
INKS: Bill Draut
A space traveler named Frank Munro is jolted from suspended animation by a malfunction in his sleep tube. As he heads for another tube to continue his sleep during the long journey, he discovers bodies of his fellow colonists. . .drained of blood! DUN-DUN-DUNNN!!
As Munro investigates, the culprit makes himself known! There's a VAMPIRE aboard the colony ship! As he mocks the mortal, Munro runs. The vampire gives chase, enjoying a bit of sport.
A cat and mouse game between mortal and vampire ensues, with Munro barely escaping several times before he finally realizes the only way out is to destroy the ship so that the vampire can't infect the entire colony.
And so he sets a shuttlecraft to self-destruct and resigns himself to his fate.
Unfortunately for Munro, the vampire was able to guess what he was up to. As they confront each other one final time, the vampire shows Munro the drifting shuttle, ejected from the ship and harmless. . .OR SO HE THINKS!
As the shuttlecraft explodes outside, the brilliant light comes through the observation window, where the shadow of the frame forms the sign of the cross. . .burning the vampire to ash!
I want to like this story. I REALLY want to like this story. But I don't. But WHY? It has David Michelinie. . .one of my favorite Iron Man writers! It has the great Ernie Chan. . .the artist who, in MY mind is the definitive Conan artist! This SHOULD have been a slam-dunk! A SLAMMIN' Slam dunk!
But it's not. It's the worst story in the issue. This makes me sad.
The best thing about this disappointing tale from two of my favorite creators is that it's the only story in the issue that's actually sort of a Halloween story, even if it IS Vampires in SPAAAAAACE! It's still vampires, right? RIGHT? *sigh*
So. . .two good stories and one bad. I guess Meatloaf was right when he sang that "Two out of three ain't bad". You would THINK I'd be happy with a 2 out of 3 result. But that last story sticks with me for all the wrong reasons. I can't help but wonder how two. . .count 'em. . .TWO comic legends could let me down like that. It's like. . .DOUBLE the disappointment.
But I guess putting the last story out of my mind for a moment, I can certainly recommend this issue. Just don't expect Halloween stories in this special Halloween issue of Secrets of Haunted House. The only thing Halloween to be found HERE is that awesome Bernie Wrightson cover.
The stories are clever and the art is really good on the first two stories, so there's enough meat on the bone to save this one. Too bad I can't get the nasty taste of being let down by two comic greats on the last story out of my mouth.
UP NEXT. . .
That's right, folks. . .MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
I've got six more to go to beat my October record, and I'm gonna do it!
Be there or be square.
- read more