Have you ever entered someone else’s nightmare? Probably not. That’s what it is to read Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram’s House of Penance. It’s like that feeling you get when you’re falling asleep that something is crawling on you, so you reach down to scratch but nothing is there. It’s eerie and – while stuck within two-dimensional frames on a page – feels alive in so many different ways. There’s a synchronicity of vision happening here that breaks the boundaries of your typical collaborations.
Sometimes, abstract and esoteric storytelling can stay out of arm’s reach for far too long and become infuriating, leaving me as a reader wondering what the heck is going on. You need something tangible to hold onto, something real to grasp so you are either dragged down or raised up with wherever the story decides to take you. Tomasi starts to drop some reveals in the third issue, and they’re reveals that answer questions but leave just as many unanswered. I think it’s this way with any art. If it can’t affect you emotionally or intellectually, then what are you going to walk away with and what was the point of the art in the first place? No matter what a creator puts into their work, it’s deemed art by whomever is viewing it. So, the artist needs a point of view, their own perspective.
The first two issues of Penance gave us some chilling, dream-like imagery and a very interesting situation and characters to deal with, as if M.C Escher decided to write about the human soul, but now we see perspective coming into play. We see parallels being drawn between our two main characters. The first (and mysterious) Sarah Winchester, heir to the throne of the Winchester rifle, whose mansion is under constant refurbishment, the sound of hammers continuously echoing through the vast hallway. She seems to be losing her mind; she can feel the presence of something trying to break its way into her home, a presence that we see envisioned by Bertram as big, fleshy, red tentacles. And on the other hand, we have Mr. (Warren) Peck, a murderer, someone who was injured and came across Ms. Winchester’s mansion of guilt-ridden laborers. Everyone under Sarah’s roof has something to be guilty for. Mr. Peck does, as well. Mr. Peck is not a good man, and we begin to see the extent of that in this issue, along with what those big, red, fleshy things are.
The darkest natures and deepest thoughts that most people wouldn’t share with you? These characters are beginning to bare theirs. We see puzzle pieces begin laid out. They are nowhere near each other, but I get the feeling as they connect, as we see how the stories of these two lost souls intertwine, the outcome won’t be anything near expected. It’s exciting to have no idea where a story is going to go.