Hey again! Reboot here. Back sooner than usual to review more comics. This time it is Dark Horse Comics' House of Penance #1 by Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram.
Dark Horse seems to be taking more chances lately. They've been trying out some ideas through their anthology series Dark Horse Presents with oversized issue #1's including reprints of the Dark Horse Presents material like the already released King's Road #1 and the soon to be released Weird Detective #1, in addition to original series that have seemed more inspired as of late. Some of these chances are paying off. One of those chances that should pay off is House of Penance.
I say this for multiple reasons. Let's start with the story. As you may have guessed, this story is in fact about a house. The Winchester house, to be exact. Yes, THE Winchester house. Sarah Winchester's house. Not sure what I'm talking about? Read about it here. The story uses the basic facts of the history behind the house as a backdrop for a supernatural story with elements of horror. In a lot of ways, this is a lot like the best kind of Doctor Who episodes.
The story takes place in 1905 as the house is being built. Sarah Winchester is overlooking the construction of the house. Somewhere else not too far away, a man is on the hunt using a Winchester rifle. "The gun that won the west." Peter Tomasi also provides us with a large cast of characters working on the house who exchange quick, sharp dialogue from time to time. Those scenes are weaved effortlessly throughout the comic helping create an excellent pace as Peter and Ian delve into Sarah's psyche as well as the house itself.
Ian Bertram's contribution as the artist in this story should not be understated. He is simply excellent. His style blends a stylistic, cartoony element with truly horrific images creating a sense of unease that is rare in comics. The only comic I can think of that excelled at this approach in the same way is Drawn and Quarterly's graphic novel Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet. I highly recommend it. Most importantly, Peter and Ian compliment each others work so well, House of Penance feels like it's written and drawn by one person. They really do feel like they are able to tap into each other's minds and bring out the best in each other. I wish more writer/artist teams felt as natural as Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram.
I highly recommend House of Penance. It's a gorgeous, mysterious, and compelling story that seamlessly blends multiple genres put together by a team that's on top of their game. Please consider checking it out when it hits the shelves on Wednesday, April 13th.