Earlier this month, Marvel Comics released the first issue of the new Haunted Mansion mini-series. This will be the latest installment in the Disney Kingdoms line which tells stories inspired by a variety of Disney Parks, even drawing from concepts that never made it to the public. Over five issues, author Joshua Williamson and artist Jorge Coelho will take us inside the doors of one of Disney’s most beloved attractions.
Haunted Mansion #1 Review
As you can tell by the cover, the Disneyland version is used for the exterior. With the two rides being nearly identical in content, this should not affect the enjoyment by anyone only familiar with the Walt Disney World version.
BEWARE FOOLISH MORTALS! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Fitting with the theme of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion, our story is set in New Orleans. Here is where we are introduced to our protagonist Danny and his adventurous grandfather looking onto the familiar mansion. It seems we are getting ready for adventure as the two discuss seeing what may be inside the mansion and all of the town rumors. The two eventually plan to take on the mysteries once Danny’s grandfather returns from a trip to the Matterhorn (one of a few allusions to other Disney attractions).
Sadly, Danny’s grandfather does not make it back alive from his adventure to the snowy mountain and it seems that their brave exploration of the Haunted Mansion will be a forgotten dream. This gives us more exposition time with Danny, who we see to be a rather timid boy that connected with his grandfather more than anyone else in his life and seems rather lost without him. Until, he sees a mysterious woman in his bathroom mirror beckoning him to the mansion where his grandfather needs him.
For fans of the ride, this is where the story becomes a bit more familiar but it stumbles a bit getting there. A common issue with comics is when a character tends to narrate their every action. Since young Danny is entering the Haunted Mansion by his lonesome, it comes off a bit odd that he continually announces his thoughts to no one. Luckily, this proves less and less of an issue as Danny moves further into the house.
Once we’re treated to the inside of the Haunted Mansion, the attraction we know comes to “life” on the page. The stretching room gives that eerie sensation that everything is not as it seems. In the portrait gallery, the monstrous versions of the paintings crawl out in a way that made my skin scrawl when thinking about passing them in the actual attraction. As these beasts give chase, our young hero tries to flee but the entrance is gone. Changing route, he begins to find himself running into many of the spooky scenery we see earliest after we step into our Doom Buggies.
As someone who has ridden Haunted Mansion a lot, most recently just hours before reading the comic, I did not think I would feel thrills when reading this story. I can honestly say I did. When those images from the portrait gallery came to life, it made those familiar memories change. Suddenly, they felt spooky again and I was even more excited to go back. Then the quick hit of familiar scenes, giving a fright to our hero at each turn, was perfectly timed and gives just a little bit of extra thrill.
The chase is broken up by the great Madame Leota. She had called Danny into the Haunted Mansion and would protect him as best she could. She would also explain everything going on. The ghost of a dead pirate has taken an oppressive hold on the happy haunts of the mansion and Danny’s grandfather had been one of them. But it takes the living to break the pirate’s hold. And also there’s a murderous bride in the attic.
And that’s pretty much where we’re left at the end of the first issue! I’m excited to see issue two when it comes out in April. The beginning was a bit rocky for me and I’m still unsure of the main character, but the team on this book made my skin crawl in a good way. I also like the idea that all is not well between the ghosts inside the Haunted Mansion. I’m truly intrigued to see how some of these Grim Grinning Ghosts are characterized as they become a part of Danny’s story.
Aside from scenes out of the ride itself, there are also a handful of other Disney reference. I believe the ghost pirate is a nod to Pirates of the Caribbean which is also a New Orleans Square attraction in Disneyland. Of course, the Matterhorn is also directly mentioned. This also gives the impression that future Disney Kingdom titles may be directly connected to this one.
The writing, overall, turned out pretty well for the first issue. While I’ve yet to be sold on the main character (and his penchant for self-narration), the house itself felt like it was jumping off the page as the kid ran through it. Part of that was planning and how the character reacted to it, the other part is artwork. The style of the book does a good job conveying dark with a bit of cartoony thrown in. It also does an excellent job of recreating these very memorable parts of the attraction so you recognize them but crafting them unique enough so they feel very much a part of the comic’s world. That said, like the character itself, I’m not sold on the look of Danny.
In the end, I can easily recommend this book. It was a delight and I can see it being as enjoyable as the Figment series, if not more. Any fan of the series should try to seek out a copy, which should be available from your local comic shop our at a variety of stores inside Disney Parks.
Have you read Haunted Mansion? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!