Tim from Last Week Reviews: House of Penance #1!

Writer: Peter TomasiHouse of Penance #1
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: 4/13/2016

Peter Tomasi was an editor at DC Comics for almost 15 years, where he guided Batman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, as well as one of the most interesting books I’ve read, The Light Brigade. In 2007, he left editorial to write comics. His writing included several small works related to bigger projects (i.e. Requiem, connected to DC Comics’ huge Final Crisis story), as well as several issues within the Batman family of books. He created another great series, The Mighty, with artist/co-writer Keith Champagne. He wrote Green Lantern Corps through DC Comics’ Blackest Night storyline, as well as the follow-up series, Brightest Day (with current DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns). After DC Comics “rebooted” their universe as the “New 52”, Tomasi wrote Green Lantern Corps and Batman and Robin.

Ian Bertram has worked for DC Comics (Detective Comics, Batman Eternal), Marvel Comics (Wolverine and the X-Men), and Image Comics (Zero), as well as cover work for both Marvel and DC.

The cover of this book is creepy as fuck. Look at it. That is just freaky. A lot of blood red (including some blood), plus some weird tendril things (tentacles?). And, a hammer. The hammer reference will come back…

We start with the disinterment of 2 coffins in the east, as they start their long journey to the west. Murcer is returning the husband and daughter of Sarah Winchester, who is not handling their deaths well. Sarah’s husband was part of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and the family is concerned about her state. Sarah has hired many men, mostly criminals, to work on her home, with the family’s money. Somehow, she is able to see the criminals’ pasts in her mind, but she is more concerned about the work being completed. They work most of the day, and sometimes at night. The sound of hammers is present throughout most of the book. She also requires everyone to give up any guns before they enter her home. She’s doing something with all of the collected guns, but we don’t know what or why, yet. She sleeps with her family’s clothing, and talks to them as though they were still filled with her loved ones. Although her mental state may be shredded, I have a feeling she is on a mission that will only become more clear with time.

We also meet Warren Peck, who has an interesting job. He kills 5 (6) Native Americans, with the intent of filling the bullet holes with arrows. It does make sense, but, again, that’s just creepy. As it turns out, his assignment doesn’t go to plan, and he takes a nasty wound, and possibly a curse, to Mrs. Winchester’s home.

Though it seems obvious that we haven’t even seen the real creepiness, this book is just creepy. All of the visuals, all of the characters, every scene, has something that oozes creepy. On top of that, Dave Stewart’s color work highlights the creepy drawings. The palette changes from scene to scene, highlighting different color groups, but always focused on making things just a little uncomfortable (and, yes, creepy). And, again, there has to be more coming.

This comic is just smartly written, which is what I’ve come to expect from Tomasi. Really, very few secrets are given up in this issue, but enough tease is laced through the whole thing that you are likely trying to put things together into a cohesive, if uninformed, whole. Though, I think there is so much going on that we haven’t seen, or haven’t had explained, that we couldn’t really come up with the endgame. But it might involve guns. And tentacles. Maybe.

House of Penance, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

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