Review: House Of Gold & Bones #1

Kyle Rogers writes;

I’m not really sure what to make of House Of Gold & Bones based on this first issue, coming at it effectively blind. Let’s start with the solicitation text, which I read after reading the issue:

“Trapped in an alternate reality, the Human must make his way to the House of Gold & Bones as he is chased by a crazed mob, and taunted by mysterious ally, Allen. What the Human discovers on his journey will either be his salvation . . . or his destruction.”

It’s not unusual for solicits to give certain details away, but in the case of this comic, that’s pretty much everything that happens, in plot terms. Which isn’t great, but it’s not terrible – after all, plot isn’t everything and a good execution matters, right?

That’s where things are a bit bland. I found the art style in this too bland and flat for the kind of story being told. The narrative itself strives for an otherworldly, eerie feel, but the art just doesn’t carry that feeling – where you want something like Dave McKean nightmarish collages or Ted McKeever’s painted works or even the painted style of cover artist Jason Shawn Alexander, you instead get some well-executed-but-unexceptional traditional artwork, with strong inked outlines and to my mind fairly flat colouring. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t serve the story to its best potential – except for occasional moments where that potential peeks through like the panel below:

Panel1

Which is promising, until you remember that the cover looked like this:

Panel2

The lack of cohesion between the narrative and the artwork’s atmosphere means that the issue feels lacking, somehow. It’s not a problem with the writing, as such; it’s just that the story requires seeding a mystery, feeding us questions about our protagonist and the world he’s in – and theoretically making up for the lack of answers to our questions by feeding us with visuals that set the tone. We don’t get to know a great deal about him – this is deliberate, since his amnesia is part of the mystery at hand – and we rely on his perspective for our understanding of the world in which he awakes. But it appears, unfortunately, to be a banal alternate reality, certainly when compared to the sorts of things we’ve seen elsewhere:

Panel3

From No Hero, art by Juan Jose Ryp

What of the writing, then? Well, it’s hard to say. Our protagonist’s internal monologue is limited enough that there’s not a lot of space for an individual style to emerge. He meets An Individual around halfway through the book, and the dialogue during that exchange is a bit more expansive, but feels a bit shaky – there are incongruous elements in the way both parties speak, things that don’t seem to sit well together. It’s possible this is deliberate, but that’s not how it came across.

What to make of this, then? Well, at $3.99 I’m not sure it’s worth the cover price, unfortunately. The story itself has some promise, but the lack of cohesion between the narrative and the art prevents it from rising beyond mediocrity. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good either. Perhaps it will be more effective when taken as a whole, but that’s a question to be answered by another review once the miniseries is complete.

House Of Gold & Bones #1, Read a preview here.