"House of Penance #6" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Ian Bertram
Colored by Dave Stewart
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on September 14th, 2016
Why does the widow Sarah Winchester, head of the famed Winchester munitions company, hire countless handymen to work non-stop on her massive, sprawling mansion? It seems we're about to find out as House of Penance rockets towards its conclusion. Literal tendrils of evil are breaking forth from the ground, shattering the very foundation of Sarah's home, all in an effort to seek vengeance on the woman who has kept them at bay all this time.
These coiling lengths of blood are a sight to behold. Although they have no anthropomorphic form, they are so damn intimidating, bursting from the ground and spiraling out of control. Every time you think you've seen them all, more spring up. They tear through the building like butter, piercing walls and ceilings alike and bringing this once great structure down around them. The tendrils can be rather suffocating as well, especially when they're seen in tight quarters. You can imagine being stuck with them swirling around you, slowly cutting off your air supply and leaving you in total darkness.
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There appears to be a massive six-page spread of this devastation. I say “appears to be”, as I read this as a digital review copy and I can't verify how this appears in print, but the pages definitely connect. Artist Ian Bertram delivers an impressive landscape of destruction. Sections of the building crumble around as the ground itself rises up, breaking into pieces around it. People struggle to hold their footing or are helplessly thrown in the air.
Dave Stewart's colors bring these tentacles of doom to life. The blood-red sheen on them gives them a sickly appearance, like they'd hit with a wet “THWACK”, leaving a trail like that of a slug. They pop off the page in contrast to the muted tones of the house and the people within it.
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It's been fascinating watching Sarah's journey through House of Penance, along with Warren Peck. On the one hand, you have a woman that is dealing with the grief of her dead child and husband by throwing herself into the construction of a massive structure. On the other, there's a man responsible for the death of many men, women, and children looking for redemption. Within this house they orbit around each other and end up having a positive effect on one another, even as everything around them is literally falling apart.
House of Penance has built up to this startling climax and it’s earned every moment of it. It's an unsettling read and this issue is no different. Throughout the entire series, you've wondered if Sarah is crazy. Are the things she's seeing just in her head? Or are they really there? We get some clarification here, but more importantly, we get closure. It's this perfectly fitting ending that is as beautiful as it is tragic. Writer Peter J. Tomasi's story of horror and heartbreak is matched by Bertram's artwork that is often disturbing yet poignant.