The Roots of Evil

House of Mystery 176

Story: Joe Orlando, Marv Wolfman

Art: Sid Greene, Sergio Arogones, Jack Sparling

Cover: Neal Adams

Well they can’t all be winners. This feels like a rush job and that makes sense. The 2nd issue of the rebranding, it looks like Joe Orlando strung together something quick to make it out on the deadline. There are really only stories here and one of them was a reprint.

The first tale is titled “The House of No Return!” and I believe it was scripted by Joe Orlando with art by Sid Green, there are no credits in the book. It is about a man named Mr. Virek who has taken interest in a very old house in disrepair. He buys it and pays a large sum of money to get it fixed up fast. Cut to a bank robbery with Virek as he’s driving through the streets of the town trying to get to the now finished house. As he approaches it, the house begins to produce a massive black cloud of smoke from the chimney causing the cops to lose sight of him. His inner thoughts reveal that the legend is true, the ancient house protects the owner from all harm.

Another day, another bank robbery but this time it’s in the heart of winter. The cops are chasing him on foot and as he approaches the house the snow off the roof slides off covering his tracks. Inside he enjoys the spoils of the crime when he is interrupted by spirits. They warn him that he is not the first to use the house’s magic but it comes at cost. The house won’t let you leave!

Frantically, he begins opening doors and windows to find them all boarded up. Becoming more and more desperate, he’s finally able to claw himself out of a small hole in some boards only land right in front of the cops. Claiming he was traps, the cops are confused as all the doors open just fine.

The second story, “The Roots of Evil”, is essentially a much lamer version of Swamp Thing. The story is by Marv Wolfman who will go on to do much better things and art is by Jack Sparling who I’ve never heard of. It starts with a woman named Cora opening her front door to a deranged scientist. The two used to date until she left him for his research partner David. He didn’t take the break up well and has become a hermit consumed with jealousy.

He has visited her on this night to find out what David is working on, and coerces her to reveal his research by having her stare into the fire place. It doesn’t make sense at all and it is very creepy in an inappropriate way. She explains that David is doing research to give sentient life to plants in order to create a workforce. She quickly comes to her senses and is repulsed by him, throwing him out. I will say that the art by Sparling here is very dynamic and unique. He does a great job of making the scientist feel disfigured with the shadows fo the fire.

Later on the deranged scientist is watching from a distance as David starts his trials of the experiment on the tree outside the house. Calling it a success he goes back inside and the scientist injects all of the remaining serum into the tree before following David inside to confront him. David is concerned for Cora and goes after her as the tree comes to life, beginning to break into the house. They both try to escape but the tree grabs them and smashes their bodies onto the ground killing them instantly.

The scientist, whose name is revealed as Dunn, is feeling triumphant with his old lover and partner dead and the serum notes in his hand. He isn’t able to get very far though as the the tree continues its rampage. He evades the branches and starts to escape but the tree grabs a large wooden spike and hurls it as Dunn, impaling him onto another tree and killing him too. So the story ends with everyone dead except the now sentient tree…

I’ve got to hand it to Neal Adams. That cover had me very excited for the stories inside at least. Too bad they didn’t live up to it.

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