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Vault of Horror #12

 I am starting with issue number 12 of Vault of Horror because issues 1 through 11 do not exist. The book was originally call War Against Crime and only became Vault of Horror with issue #12. The issue starts with a story called Portrait in Wax. Robert and Henry are two starving artists living in Paris. Robert is very talented but doesn't want to sell his work. Henry has no talent, but desperately wants to be rich and famous. Henry starts selling Robert's work as his own. Robert finds out and confronts him, telling Henry he is going to the police. Henry throws acid in his face, then decides to kill him by throwing his whole body into a vat of acid. Henry lives the high life from the money he makes selling Robert's work. But soon he begins to run out of pieces tom sell. One of his friends dies, and he receives a mysterious and anonymous message to go see a statue that was made of his friend. He goes and finds a completely life like wax statue. He talks the man responsible into letting him open a museum and take all the credit. He is famous all over again, but then he discovers that the statues are actually just corpses of recently dead famous people covered in a thin layer of wax. As he confronts the artist he finds out that the man making the statues was actually his friend Robert, who set him up. It turns out Henry had thrown him into a vat of water. He was wearing a mask of wax to disguise his face, which had been disfigured by the real acid Henry had thrown on it. Henry dies of a heart attack, and the public is treated to his final statue, of himself. The cover was from this story, but I'm not sure the artist read the story. It has a man being put on the rack in front of a crowd who think he's a wax figure. I kind of wish I could have read that story.

The Werewolf Myth begins with Walter Mallory transforming into a werewolf for the first time. No explanation is given at first, he just becomes a werewolf and hunts down and kills a man. The next morning Walter wakes up and thinks it might have been a nightmare. But he finds blood on his sheets and then hears that a man has been killed by some sort of beast. He reads some old family manuscripts that his cousin Gregory has left out, and learns his family has a curse. One of his ancestors came back from the Crusades with the curse of being a werewolf. That night Walter once again finds himself out hunting as the beast. The next day he decides something must be done, so he goes to the police and talks them into watching his house. He thinks that when they see him in his wolf form they will shoot and kill him. That night he again goes out and kills. When he wakes up he wonders why the police didn't shoot him, and decides to take matters into his own hands. Just then the police arrive to tell him he hasn't actually killed anyone.  His cousin Gregory has been hypnotizing him to believe he is transforming into a wolf and hunting and killing these men. Gregory has been the real murderer, killing the men because they were blackmailing him. He thought that Walter would either kill himself or that he could have Walter committed, leaving him in a position to inherit a fortune in Walter's place. It could have been an interesting story, but it was so condensed it felt rushed and the ending ended up feeling like a cop out instead of a clever twist.

After this was a short little prose piece called Fingers of Death that is obvious filler. A man strangles another man for a gold chain but is forced to flee before he can steal it. The victim is buried with the chain so the killer breaks into his tomb. He gets the chain but somehow as he leans over to look at it the dead man's hands begin to clench in rigor mortis and choke the killer to death. This page could have better served fleshing out one of the earlier stories a bit.

Horror In The Night has an innkeeper telling his brother about an awful nightmare he had that has him all shaken up. He dreamed about a couple renting a cabin for the night. The woman looked crazy. In his dream he was able to see what happened in the cabin that night. The woman tries to sneak away but sees a cat. She freaks out and kills the cat. The husband puts her back to bed, and we learn he is taking her to an asylum. She tries to get away again and this time the husband kills her. He talks about how she has gone crazy and killed every animal she sees after a cat killed her baby. Apparently the man felt this justified killing her, but his conscience wasn't totally clean, as he shoots himself right after. After the innkeeper finishes telling his brother this his brother assures him he just had a nightmare due to being so stressed out. The innkeeper feels better until he steps out to greet his customers who just pulled in and discovers it's the couple from his dream.

Another short prose piece, tooth and fang. A man kills a circus owner for the days' receipts. He tries to hide from some routabouts and ends up in a panther's cage. The panther kills him, of course. Another page that could have been better used fleshing out of of the other stories, all of which could have used it.

The final story is Terror Train. Gloria is trying to escape her husband Ralph, who she believes is trying to kill her. He bought poison so she didn't eat. She woke up to find him standing over her with a knife, which he said he found on her bedside table. Both these incidents are told in flashback, along with the time Ralph told her he had taken out a life insurance policy on them both for $25,000.00. That is why she believes Ralph is trying to kill her. After she thinks she spotted Ralph on the train she bails and makes her way to the house. There is a freshly dug grave in the yard, and inside she finds a coffin and her husband. He nails her into the coffin and buries her alive. Then she wakes up to find that she is still on the train, and her husband is there with people from an asylum, who take her away. She says she likes it there because there are bars on the window, so she is finally safe from Ralph. I think the implication is that she is crazy and Ralph wasn't after her, but that's never explicitly stated. It could be that Ralph was intentionally driving her crazy, which is the ending I honestly expected. Another story that seemed rushed and poorly thought out. 


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