Plus, he’s not alone. For every room has been created out of someone’s mind, and, in some cases, that person doesn’t want to leave. Even if the hideous creatures known as the Wretched try to force them, as they do Sam.
But, others have made a way of life out of their search. Alex, with his ever-changing tattoos, hunts for a missing friend who may hold the secret to getting out, while androgynous businesswoman Devi runs the only bar in the House, much like Rick's Café in Casablanca, a way station for people and information, a place to unwind and pick up information and work.
Striking a deal with Devi, Sam finds himself in the Bottle Snatch, a quest to find rare bottles of liquor stored in various rooms and bring them back to the bar in exchange for information. But, he finds his way blocked by an assortment of obstacles from the hulking Wretcheds and the thuggish Seraphim to the ethereal Frails who act as Siryns, blocking people from their goals, to the ultimate death of the Wave. He finds himself ensnared in a search for the ultimate prize: a man who can change a Door’s destination.
Maddox’s tale has many antecedents, most recently in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Vertigo’s House of Secrets, as well as an unconscious nod to Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves (in which a family moves into a house only to find it larger on the inside than the outside . . . and growing), but he manages to add enough embellishments to keep his story fresh and intriguing, creating a richly textured world with almost limitless storytelling possibilities. Each of the characters has a distinct personality, and artist Jen Hickman captures those distinctions nicely with her clean lines and rich digital pallete.
If there is any drawback, it's that the story moves with an uneven pace out of the gate with Sam going from a House neophyte to one of the best Bottle Snatchers in the course of a panel, covered by a newspaper article. And, while his drive is well defined, it would be interesting to know a little bit more about why he wants out so desperately. But, once moving past that point, the story of The Dead flows with a rich, dramatic energy that pulls you along.
VERDICT: FOUR Forbidden Bottles of Rare Liquors out of FIVE