The Halloween season with DC Comics is off to a spooky start. With titles like Gotham City Monsters and The Year of the Villain‘s dark nature, October is DC’s month. Now, in Secrets of Sinister House #1 readers are brought into pulpy gothic horror in the best way. A collection of eight stories, Secrets of Sinister House offers up horrors and mysteries with Harley Quinn, John Constantine, Detective Chimp, Zatanna, the Atom, and others. The macabre is at its peak in this Halloween special, I mean, there is a vampire Batman.
A Nightmare Mist
Written by Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone with art from Albuquerque, colors from Dave McCraig, and letters from Tom Napolitano, “A Nightmare Mist” is all about Red Rain Batman. The choice to open Secrets of Sinister House with vampire Batman was the best decision. Taking the form of a tragic gothic tale, “A Nightmare Mist” is simple in its premise, Batman saves a child, but executes a truly creepy story fueled by Albuquerque’s terrific art. The Batman we know, with sharp teeth, red eyes, and long nails is haunting and the dynamic fight scene with the Court of Owls provides panels that are fit to decorate a room. Finally, Napolitano’s serif script works perfectly in replicating an old-world feel, asking the reader to buy into the penny dreadful story.
The Footsteps of Old Worm
From writer Dan Waters, artist Sumar Kumar, colorist John Kalisz, and letterer Troy Peteri, “The Footsteps of Old Worm” is the most visually disturbing of the stories in Secrets of Sinister House. Staring Ryan Choi as Atom, this short story sees Atom attempting to help a doctor after a rash of suicides occurs, prompted by descents into madness, calling out to the Old Worm. The art in this short story from Kumar is superbly unsettling and it’s made all the better with Kalisz’s colors. “The Footsteps of Old Worm” uses psychological horror and mystery to push its reader, making it one of my favorites in Secrets of Sinister House.
Calling Dr. Bonkers
“Calling Dr. Bonkers” is written by Paul Dini, with art from Cain Tormey, colors by Romulo Farjado Jr., and letters from Travis Lanham and takes on an exciting killer clown romp with Harley Quinn and Zatanna. Aiming to reclaim Halloween, a holiday made dull by her notoriety, Harley and Zatanna take off to a place where no one knows who Harley Quinn is. When the pair stops at a clown-themed inn, all hell breaks loose. The art from Tormey is spooky and perfect to scare anyone with a fear of clowns. Additionally, there are elements of it that remind me of the Puppet Master franchise that whether nods to it or not, add more to the story, allowing for multiple types of clowns and more scares.
Out of My skin
Written by Diego Lucero Lopez, with pencils from Phil Hester, inks by Ande Parks, colors from Jeremy Cox colors, and letters by AndWorld Design, “Out of My Skin” features Martian Manhunter and embraces body horror to the fullest. Showing up to a swamp to rid it of a skin stealing monster, Martian Manhunter battles it, conquering it, and realizing that monsters are ideas more complicated than they seem. While Hester and Parks’ art is beautifully gruesome, it’s Lopez’s writing that shines. Deep and dark, the story is told almost entirely through Martian Manhunter’s narration. “Out of My Skin” is emotional in the best way and surpasses the penny dreadful format of this series and is one that I would love to see develop past the few pages in Secrets of Sinister House.
In “Dreamweaver” writer Robbie Thompson, artist Tom Raney, Hi-Fi Colors, and letterer Rob Leigh team up to tell a short involving Justice League Dark (JLD). In it, Bobo is out looking for the members of the JLD who have gone missing. Slowly he realizes that they are all living out their nightmares. Working to save them and pull them out, Bobo must conquer the magic. “Dreamweaver” isn’t bad, but it is the weakest of the eight stories. With a conclusion you can see coming from a mile away, it’s really just Raney’s art that shines. Sadly, this installment in Secrets of Sinister House is tonally separate from the whole of the collection. It’s bright and the farthest thing from pulpy, where the other shorts live.
House of the Dead
Written by John Layman, with art by Jorge Fornés, colors by Jordie Bellaire, and letters from Steve Wands, “House of the Dead” centers around Deadman and it’s oh so spooky. Basing its structure on a haunting, “House of the Dead” is eerie. Houses are like people and this story explores that line to the fullest. There are lines from Layman that hit hard, namely “trauma leaves a stain.” Fornés and Bellaire are the perfect team, evoking the gothic setting that pushes ghost stories to be more than just jumps. “House of the Dead” is classic horror as a family is driven to evil, their house being the cause.
Written by Che Grayson, with art from Miguel Mendonça, colors by Bill Crabtree, and letters from Dave Sharpe, “Fear 101” is a Green Lantern story featuring Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Embodying Alien, “Fear 101” sees our leads on a ship, attacked by a creature. But this is more than just a creature as Grayson explores Cruz’s trauma and imposter syndrome, one of the most interesting and relatable parts of her character. Mendonça’s art is also wonderful with creature design that Crabtree’s colors highlight.
Hell is for Dreamers
Constantine closes out Secrets of Sinister House, as he rightfully should. Written by Bryan Hill, with art from Alessandro Vitti, colors by Adriano Lucas, and letters by Willie Schubert, “Hell is for Dreamers” is the perfect way to close a Halloween anthology of stories embodying the very best of pulp ghost stories as Constantine works to get justice from the afterlife for a murdered starlet. Hill has a way of writing about Los Angeles that points to its sadness and its magic which works in this short. Additionally, Vitti’s art is perfection, magical in the right ways, and dark in others.
Secrets of Sinister House #1 is a must-read for the Halloween season. It’s packed with stories that chill and embody the very best of gothic horror, penny dreadfuls, and all the camp can lie inside them. With only one of the eight stories feeling detached, this is a solid anthology. It’s solid horror.
Secrets of Sinister House #1 is available where comics are sold.
Secrets of Sinister House #1
Secrets of Sinister House #1 is a must-read for the Halloween season. It’s packed with stories that chill and embody the very best of gothic horror, penny dreadfuls, and all the camp can lie in side them. With only one of the eight stories feeling detached, this is a solid anthology. It’s solid horror.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime.