House of Penance #1

by Forrest.H on April 14, 2016

Dark, beautiful, flawed


Writer – Peter J. Tomasi

Artist – Ian Bertram
Colors – Dave Stewart
Letters – Nate Piekos
When William Winchester, gun proprietor and death-dealer extraordinaire died, he left his immense wealth to his widow, Sarah Winchester with which she gladly began to construct a home for herself in San Jose (known today as the Winchester Mystery House). It seems, however, that dear William also left Sarah with a deeply penetrating guilt for profiting from death, one that would pursue her for the rest of her life.

House of Penance #1, a new horror comic from Tomasi, Bertram, Stewart and Dark Horse explores that guilt, its residual paranoia and more in a compelling, if somewhat bare, first issue.
Tomasi writes a deeply intriguing narrative that is equal parts confusing and compelling. However, I can see it being difficult to grasp if the reader wasn’t familiar with the story of the Winchester House. There’s very little in terms of narrative explanation here and much more in the way of aesthetical and tonal building, done well, but not perhaps for a first issue.

What’s written depicts a flawed, terrifying and mysterious Sarah (and foreman) but doesn’t do much in the way of explaining why or how things are that way, even abstractly, aside from the occasional splicing in of extreme violence, some of which goes simply too far and makes little sense to the uninitiated reader anyways.

Where the book really stands out, then, is in the marriage of Bertram and Stewart who bring the same kind of weirdness Bertram did in E is for Extinction here to life again. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure, but it’s also an inspiritingly unforgiving, dark, complex and beautiful delving into a deeply disturbing story and cast of characters that does tonally what the narrative was trying to and missed the mark on.

It’s a beautiful, weird, first issue that I liked a lot but is desperately trying to outpace readers who may not be familiar with what’s going on here. Fans of horror, graphic and psychological will find a lot to like here but others might not.

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