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Advance Review: The Collected The House

In their Comixology Submit (And soon to be published in physical format.)  The House, writer Phillip Sevy, artist Drew Zucker, and colorist Jen Hickman whip up tasty and gory blend of the war and horror genres as Allied soldiers in Luxembourg find themselves in a haunted house while taking a German prisoner of war back to camp. What begins as a sanctuary from a winter storm captured in its all its fury with blistering white space from Zucker and Hickman turns into a Hammer horror haunted house flick. This team of soldiers is used to making a plan, taking orders, and executed it, but it turns all topsy turvy in the primal evil of The House.

Sevy and Zucker set up the almost cosmic stakes of The House in a riveting cold open of mostly silent sequences of The House juxtaposed with the diary of a man named Ethan Wilde, which was discovered in 1976. There’s a montage of panels ranging from prehistoric time to the Middle Ages and finally the 20th Century. The House wisely doesn’t use its World War II setting to tell a simplistic “Allies are good, Nazis are evil” story and goes for a more psychological approach with flashbacks of Allied officers shooting prisoners, and the medic character King continually being wracked by the responsibility for his brother’s automobile accident death. Zucker and Hickman bring a pretty epic and widescreen approach to guilt with pages that simulate a descent into Hell for him. As a medic, King feels a great responsibility to keep the men alive and takes each accidental gunshot wound or death personally.

This is a slight negative, but The House works better as a adrenaline ride thriller than a character piece even though the scenes of characters being haunted by the ghosts of civilians they gunned down are a chilling reminder of how terrible war is. Sevy uses these “big picture” moments sparingly as a kind of raw commentary after an extended chase sequence and as a reminder that even the “good guys” did morally reprehensible things. Most of The House is a roller coaster ride that rarely lets up and even has a few “false endings” like when a group of soldiers think they are back to being stranded in the cold, but then a door suddenly appears, and the tension continues. Its film influences are The Shining (The snow, outbursts violence, and blurred lines between real and supernatural.) and classic haunted house films like The House That Dripped Blood. However, the immersive nature of The House with its page turn reveals and plot structure of ghostly specters eventually evolving into a more solid blood red opponent reminded me of horror video games. The comic starts out as Wolfenstein or possibly Medal of Honor with its more straightforward action and then transforms into classic Resident Evil when it was pure haunted house survival horror for the PS1.

The soldiers’ attempts to get out of “the House” are an exercise in futility as everything from foolhardy shooting up the study or at windows to more sensible using a rope to keep track of their path all fail because this place is pure evil. Sometimes, Phillip Sevy’s plot seems padded to keep the soldiers trapped, but then he and Drew Zucker cook up new terrors like ghosts wandering without a bullet chunk out of their head or feral children that render a grid layout all, but useless. Jen Hickman is always there with the traditional horror reds and black and sometimes an even more unsettling blue tone that she transfers from certain characters’ eyes to their surroundings. It adds that extra freaky factor to Zucker’s choppy figures, ever shifting landscapes, and occasional EC Horror homages like a full page spread featuring an eyeball close-up.

Even though it has a smidgen of spooky worldbuilding, The House is a solid standalone thriller that melds the horror and war genres. Sevy, Zucker, and Hickman turn what is usually the creepy, yet cozy home of horror comic prologues into the antagonist and a kind of conduit that reminds humanity of the worst inside of them. The tone of the comic runs from subtle to bombastic, but all in all, it’s a reminder that comics can be frightening sometimes, and some of the guilt inducing ghouls that Drew Zucker will be seared in my brain for at least a few days.

Story: Phillip Sevy Art: Drew Zucker Colors: Jen Hickman
Story: 7.9 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Buy 

Sucker Productions provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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