Vertigo: Winter’s Edge (#1, 1998) – Various

5 out of 5

As is usually the case with anthology comics, given some base level of quality that’s maintained – thanks to consistent editing; a well-presented theme or format – mileage with individual entries will vary based on tastes, but: Vertigo’s first Winter’s Edge offering is pretty much the ideal “environment” for an anthology, being created during the imprint’s golden age of titles and creators, and with a title (House of Secrets) that’s essentially perfect for use as a framing story. Grant Morrison’s Invisibles; a Preacher interview; Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and related titles; Steve Gerber’s Nevada – this is just a treasure trove of fantastically fun and imaginative strips, and even when the things may not be my favorites, the high level task is absolutely accomplished of representing each title with enough flavor to encourage a reader to pursue more if they’re so inclined. That last bit should probably be stressed moreso, since I’m sure I’m biased toward this era of Vertigo as I was an active reader at that point; but I think it’s somewhat objective to say that it was a pretty active and popular line in the late 90s, and a lot of titles that came out of that time have had a lasting legacy, and the quality of art and the variations in the offerings here helps to show why that may have been possible.

House of Secrets involved a haunted-ish house in which various cases were “judged” by the ghostly denizens, interacted with by lead character Rain. As a framing device for this collection, Rain wanders into a new room in the house, looking for items she can use as X-Mas gifts for friends, and is offered – by one of the spirit residents – to review some paintings as possibilities. Each painting conjures up imaginings, and those imaginings are each of our anthology entries. It’s a smart setup that keeps the whole thing reading as one book, while also allowing for each title to be its own thing, and also selling House of Secrets itself.

Highlights and lowlights for me: high – the Nevada entry makes me wish Steve had just written that series more in this day-in-the-life format; low – John Ney Rieber’s Books of Magic and Morrison’s bit are the only two strips that I feel require further context to “get,” and so they come across a little clunky, but still do the job of giving you the spirit of the titles.

A table of contents and page numbers are appreciated touches in this presige-bound special.