Published on January 6th, 2017 | by Dana Folkard
HOUSE OF PENANCE TPB REVIEW
Summary: House of Penance is a sad and tragic tale that delves into the story of Winchester House with a fictional and haunting twist
A harrowing read!
The Winchester House, renowned for being haunted, filled with bizarre architectural curiosities and under constant construction for close to forty years, is the backbone to this dark tale about guilt, insanity and a blood curse. House of Penance TPB collects all six issues of this miniseries by writer Peter Tomasi, artist Ian Bertram and colourist Dave Stewart in one complete graphic novel.
House of Penance tells the story about Winchester House, built by Sarah Winchester at the beginning of the 20th century. Sarah was the widow of gun magnate, William Winchester, and began building the house after the death of her husband and infant daughter from tuberculosis. Sarah believes that she is plagued by a blood curse and that she is awash in a tide of blood from those that have died from her husband’s invention. As a kind of atonement for the blood spilled by the Winchester rifle, Sarah builds the house as a form of penance and oversees the never-ending construction that she believes keep the evil spirits at bay. The lines between what is imagined and what is the truth is blurred, as we see everything through the eyes of damaged and tormented people who are haunted by their past sins. Surrounded by murderers and vagrants, Sarah only employs those who possess a dark and regretful past and all of them seem to have a strange spiritual connection to the house and Sarah. The arrival of a mysterious stranger, Warren Peck, an ex-sharpshooter for the Union Army, heralds an unexpected change for Sarah, as they share an understanding of their joint torment and no longer have to face their demons alone.
Peter Tomasi has taken the true story about Sarah Winchester and her house and added a fictional twist with supernatural elements. It’s a harrowing read, filled with trauma, grief and guilt which you experience through the eyes of a tortured soul. The whole experience is intense and I often found myself questioning whether what I was reading and seeing was meant to be reality or a hallucination. It keeps the whole narrative driving forward in a strange and unnerving way, which works perfectly with a story about a person who is losing their mind as it messes with your sense of perception. Tomasi also created the character Warren Peck, who is forever tormented by the faces of those that he has killed. He is seeking some sort of absolution from the sins of his past and finds a kind of solace from working on this house for Sarah. He is an interesting character, surrounded by guilt and pain and both him and Sarah share this experience together, coming through the death and torment of their past, hoping to emerge to the light. I really enjoyed Tomasi’s combination of a real-life story with a fictional twist and found that it all tied together seamlessly to create an interesting and dynamic read with a very sinister edge.
Ian Bertram’s art brings an entirely creepy and disturbing visual narrative. As you progress through the story, the art becomes much more intense and frightening to look at. I found myself feeling overwhelmed with some of the scenes, which I thought was very effective in capturing Sarah’s madness. Everything is incredibly striking to look at, whether it be the tormented faces of Sarah and Warren or the insidious spirits that look like creeping, red tentacles. It’s all very effective in creating a sense of anxiety and discomfort. The colourist, Dave Stewart, helps to amplify the overall emotional tone of the story and gives it the air of distress and fear. This really is a horror story and it visually delivers that experience to us.
House of Penance is a sad and tragic tale that will haunt you long after you finished reading it. It’s a thought-provoking story that combines clever writing and striking art in fresh and unique way. I recommend grabbing a copy of the TPB and enjoying this wonderful take on a well-known horror story with a supernatural twist.
I’m giving this 4.5 out of 5 stars!
Title: House of Penance
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Creative Team: Peter Tomasi, Ian Bertram, Dave Stewart
Reviewer: Dana Folkard