Journey Into Mystery (#4, 1972) – Various

3 out of 5

A short-lived iteration of one of several horror / sci-fi anthology mags in the 70s, Journey Into Mystery is definitely lacking a bit of personality – its got it adaptations, and some goofy horror, but nothing to really identify it as a standout title.

Issue #4 features a Haunters of the Dark H.P. Lovecraft adaptation by writer Ron Goulart, artist Gene Colan, and inker Dan Adkins. As with many Lovecraft visual adaptations, there’s not much bite when this stuff isn’t crafted in our imaginations, but Goulart / Colan at least appreciably keep the bogeyman in the shadows, as befitting their ‘haunting of the dark’ shtick. Colan’s muddy style should be a good fit on art, though Adkins inks him a bit too cleanly for that, and the end of the story – where one could punch up the classic unknown elements – feels a bit hurried to allow room for two other tales in this issue.

Some early Steve Gerber work: the short ‘The Price is Flight!,’ which is actually a lot darker than its punny title suggests. While this seems very work-for-hire-y – Steve is scripting over inker Dan Adkins’ plot – it still has a nice sense of restraint in the dialogue, which is unusual for these Tales from the Crypt-adjacent mags. Not sure why it needed fat jokes, but the few page story gives us “Clifford the Great,” a magician who pushes himself a bit too far when his skills are challenged.

Gardner Fox and Donald F. McGregor end on ‘The Man With Two Faces!’ This is something of a standard morality tale – guy does wrong, is cursed because of it – with the oddity being that the ‘curse’ is, as the title implies, another face… on his stomach. I don’t know what I would’ve asked of Winslow Mortimer visually for handling that face, but it comes across as more weird than body horror creepy. Otherwise, Mortimer’s general dramatics are good, and though the script lacks any real reason for this development – he’s… two-faced? – it’s nice and bleak. And I love that the nurse is somehow reading like nine different newspapers with relevant headlines.