For five issues now, Sarah Winchester has been fighting the literal and figurative demons caused by the violent deaths of the moneymaking and life-ending machine that is the Winchester Rifle. I’ve turned every page with wide-eyed fascination. This part-Western, part-horror story told by Peter J. Tomasi, Ian Bertram, Dave Stewart, and company is fueled by the anger and sadness at the state of the world we live in. This takes on a vivid clarity as the bitter irony of Sarah’s final, hopeful words are spoken. This hope prompts the feeling that we are still living out this tragedy today.
In House of Penance, Sarah, as she was in real life, was a superstitious woman who, due to her fortune being read, moved west and worked endlessly in building and rebuilding a house to keep the spirits that were coming for her at bay. She lived in madness. House of Penance lives in the fever dream of that beautiful, unsettling madness.
The creators have created less a linear story and more of a tone poem that equally enhances the character study and allegory at the center of this book, one that unsettles and grips you, holds tight as you’re drowning with it, without screaming at you or condescending to you. Without telling you you’re wrong or becoming that which it speaks out against, it’s a political statement on par with some of Alan Moore’s great pieces. From the writing to the art, coloring, and lettering, it’s a work of art.