House of Penance #3 Review

Written by: Peter Tomasi

Art by: Ian Betram

Publisher: Dark Horse

House of Penance has so far been a very enjoyable and creepy series based on the real life Sarah Winchester and the construction of the popular tourist house “Winchester Mystery House”. Believing herself to be haunted by evil spirits, she demands constant construction on her family estate, continually adding odd geography to a twisted and warped house. The newest issue opens up a lot about our main characters, while still managing to maintain a very unsettling and unknowable fear throughout.

After his injuries in the last issue, mysterious drifter Warren Peck suffers nightmares over the guilt of the murders he’s committed which causes him to question Mrs. Winchester’s actions and his role in her twisted project. There’s a lot of explanation of some of the weirder elements of the series in this issue, and while this has the risk of ruining some of the intrigue, it instead makes the story more interesting. Tomasi doesn’t reveal too much outside of what readers will have already figured out, but provides enough context and intrigue to keep the story moving at an interesting pace. Opening up on our main characters also gives a nice emotional hook, and a look at the consequences of Warren’s actions, making him a far more interesting and layered character than he has been so far.

The dream sequence also show why Bertram is the perfect artist for this series, and why his unique style has made this book stand out so much in my mind. He has this very grotesque and unsettling quality to his pencils, everything has a very otherwordly and even Lovercraftian feel to it. The dream sequence in this issue punctuates that so well, s the gore is not used for shock value, but instead used as a horrifying look at the guilt Warren’s actions had on him. The spread towards the beginning of the book in particularly is horrifyingly gorgeous and exactly why I pick up this book. Even throughout the issue, Bertram lays out the book in such a way that the horror and suspense sneaking in feel palpable as they work their way through the panels, giving the reader the sensation that there’s always something that can and will go wrong, yet I don’t want to look away. If there’s any issues to be had, it’s that his exaggerated style often doesn’t lend itself well to the more mundane characters in the book, leading to oddly long necks or odd face shapes, but you’ll be so drawn into the story that it’s hard to get too distracted by this.

House of Penance #3 pushes the story forward well and features some of the series best art to date. It sticks out in my mind as one of the most visually unique and fascinating horror books currently on the market. If you’ve been itching for some unsettlingly fascinating and beautiful horror comics, then House of Penance is certainly worth your time and money.