‘House of Penance #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

House of Penance is as much an intangible mystery as any: entering into an unknown world, one that seems vaguely familiar but becomes increasingly less and less so. That’s why we read, isn’t it? That’s why we set aside time for it from running errands, typing on Facebook, our jobs, living in political arguments. We read to get a peek into worlds that aren’t so cyclically familiar. We read to, if even for ten minutes, break that pattern up a bit.

With House of Penance #1, Peter J. Tomasi (Batman, Superman) and Ian Bertram create an almost Edward Gorey sort of visual palette with the help of colorist Dave Stewart, shattering that pattern into bits and pieces. As I began, so I shall continue – House of Penance is as much an intangible mystery as any. From the first panels to the last, we enter into a world that should be our own but shifts a bit at a time further away from our understanding. By the end, we truly have no idea where we are, except that we're living in someone else’s nightmare.

That someone is Mrs. Winchester - yes, daughter of the gun creator. She’s a dark, severe specimen: hair pulled back, calm in one moment but harried, frenzied, hair down, and eyes crazed the next. Pale skin, like a porcelain doll, her eyes could swallow you. This is the wild west, and she does not like violence. Though there’s something else going on, something that she needs workers for, something inside the walls of her house that frightens her. A mystery within a mystery and so on. Somewhere else, a headhunter hunts the heads of Native Americans. How does this story connect with the other? While we see the convergence, we still aren’t sure. House of Penance is like learning another language.

This book is mesmerizing. The paneling alone fosters a sort of dream state. The eyes tell more stories than most of the dialogue. There are so many unanswered questions in this first book, 95% of what I haven’t brought up. It would be a travesty if you didn’t take a gander, and the next issue can’t come soon enough.

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