Reading House of Penance is like bathing in madness. It creeps into your psychological cracks like a good David Lynch film. This current issue finds that Sarah’s sister has returned to have her carted off to the madhouse. This inspires the first instance of violence we’ve seen on the Winchester’s mansion. You see, Sarah Winchester, who owns half of the Winchester fortune (the guns) has hired on a platoon of killers to work on her mansion. The workers create and recreate this maze of a mansion. Some doors lead nowhere, and some hallways and stairways lead nowhere. The banging of the hammers are supposed to keep the vengeful spirits that haunt Sarah at bay, but with that first instance of outright violence, order begins to lose against the chaos.
It’s not just Peter J. Tomasai’s cerebral script, it’s also Ian Bertram’s art and Dave Stewart’s (Black Hammer) colors. They create a world unlike any world in comics right now, one with tension that spills over from the unseen just beyond the edges of the panel and into the panel for us to catch glimpses of. There’s a sequence in which Sarah is reaching out to the dead victims of the gun she owns fifty percent of, including the spirits of her daughter. The world turns upside down and sideways, until we’re left with an image I won’t soon erase from my head.
House of Penance is just a fantastic combining of talents and a high-minded horror story inspired by reality.