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House Of Penance #1

    Ian Jane

  • House Of Penance #1

    House Of Penance #1
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: April 12th, 2015.
    Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
    Illustrated by: Ian Bertram
    Purchase From Amazon

    The first page of this new series takes us back to 1905, Mount Hope Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut. A man named Mercer is sent to San Jose, California to pick up some bodies. He transports them by wagon to a huge house surrounded by strange statues where the sound of banging seems to be a constant.

    Inside the home his employer Mrs. Winchester, obsesses over bullets. The coffins he's brought to her contain the bodies of her husband and her daughter. She's small in stature but wants to dig graves for them on the property herself. She has them interred under the willow tree, her hope is that the shade will keep them cool.

    Near the San Joaquin River in the north part of the state, a man uses a Winchester rifle to use some natives for target practice. The rifleman takes them out from a distance and then heads into the camp to use some carefully placed arrows to make it look like Indian on Indian violence. There's one survivor, a man, who attacks him - the rifleman killed a child and the survivor wants payback, but it's not to be.

    Back at the Winchester house a team of men build day and night - a stairway to nowhere, a door that doesn't open. The banging that Mercer heard on the way in was the constant hammering of the workers. In her room, Mrs. Winchester talks to her husband as if he and their child were still alive. Later that morning she interviews new workers, tells them that when on her property there will be no violence, lateness or lying. The work needs to be constant. When a Southern man in her employ refuses to hand his hammer to a black man during the shift change, Mrs. Winchester scolds them for allowing the work to stop, even for a brief moment. Alone in her room, Sarah Winchester reads a letter from her departed husband William's brother Thomas. He hopes the construction on the house will cease, it's giving the rifle manufacturer a sullied reputation in the press.

    Later that night, the rifleman, who we learn is named Warren Peck, arrives at the house looking for a place to stay for the night…

    This wonderfully bizarre first issue that tackles the strange but true story of Sarah Winchester and the infamous Winchester House is certainly off to a great start. The story sets up her madness in a pretty intense manner as she talks to her departed family members and seems to cling to them during the night, even when they aren't there. Her banter is clearly that of a troubled soul, the only one who seems to care at all is Mercer - he tends to her quite diligently, even if it is occasionally quite begrudgingly. Tomasi's story is interesting, nicely written, and easily piques the reader's curiosity. When you get the last page, you want to know where this is going to wind up. It's pretty gripping stuff.

    Ian Bertram's artwork is gorgeous and bizarre. It's crazy detailed, suiting the insanity of the perpetual construction depicted in the writing perfectly. There's a bit of a Moebuis influence here maybe, his style has a bit of a European look which is interesting as this is a very American story in so many ways, tying into the history of the country and the expansion to the west. He's got a clear knack for architecture, his character design is unique and striking and some of the panels that he's conjured up here, particularly those where Sarah Winchester's madness is in full swing, are quite eerie. Dave Stewart's coloring work compliments Bertram's style really nicely, using tones and hues appropriate to the period in which this is all taking place.

    This is creepy, weird and wholly compelling - one of the most original first issues to come out in quite some time and a rare comic that seems to do everything right.

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