‘House of Penance #4:’ Advance Comic Book Review

House of Penance is the most hypnotic and spellbinding comic book on the shelves. The imagery flows like water down a stream - twisting, swirling, and cascading. It’s natural and fluid. It’s haunting, unnerving, and you can feel its pulse, like a heartbeat. There’s nothing else that looks and feels like this in the comic book industry. Peter J. Tomasi and Ian Bertram know how to lull you into their dream state. The exaggerated eyes of the characters are windows to otherworldly souls. The red plasmic intestines, the visualization of the curse that haunts Sarah Winchester, that fills the panels and allows the violent subtext of the characters to brim to the surface. It’s unnerving. I feel like they have a handle on symbolism better than most comic creators. Dave Stewart’s colors help to create this vibe, allowing Bertram’s artwork to dig into the subconscious. He walks the line between creating a real-world setting and a portal into a sort of nightmarish netherworld. The spaces shift and change from panel to panel. Is Sarah living her dreams or is there something truly alive just below the surface?

Yes, Sarah Winchester, the imposing, stoic, and mad matriarch and widow of the heir to the Winchester fortune, believes she is cursed, and we find out from her visiting sister. Owning half the company which creates a weapon that is responsible for many deaths doesn’t rest well on her soul, nor does the loss of her children. (In the comic book, it’s son and daughter, in reality only a daughter.) I’ve just come back from a half-hour rabbit hole online, digging into the real Sarah Winchester who Tomasi and Bertram have found proper inspiration from. It didn’t even occur to me until issue four that there may be some truth to the yarn they’re spinning. The house that Sarah is constantly rebuilding in the comic exists. She worked on that house for 38 years, and whatever the reason in real life, in the comic book she’s driven forward by forces beyond her control. She’s driven toward a killer, Mr. Peck, who is being eaten away by something, perhaps his own guilt.

Elements of what’s happening and why are beginning to come into focus, but along with those bits of information, greater mysteries are being shuffled into place. Animals are being found dead, and now so, too, are people. In a house of killers,
it’s only a matter of time, I suppose, before someone dies.

Do yourself a favor and find and read House of Penance.

Go to top