We’re marching towards the finale of Dark Horse Comics’ House of Penance, the horror series about Sarah Winchester and The Winchester Mystery House by Peter J. Tomasi, Ian Bertram, and Dave Stewart. This here is a review of issue five, the penultimate chapter of the series.
Now, before reading this series, my only exposure to Peter J. Tomasi’s writing had been through the DC Comics series he’d written (namely his Batman and Robin run with Patrick Gleason), so it was really nice to see what he could do on a creator-owned series like House of Penance. In this issue, Tomasi opens his characters up a bit more, offering us further insight into the story behind the construction of Winchester House and the misdeeds of Warren Peck. His writing is consistently good throughout, his pacing is on-point and he ends the issue with a nice lead into the finale. Can’t fault it.
On to the art: Ian Bertram and Dave Stewart are a force of nature on this title. The combination of what the pair can do together is something else. I think Ian Bertram’s art style is a great fit for the title. Personally I love his artwork. I know some people don’t but I’m the one writing the review which makes my opinion more valid, haha. Basically, it’s hard to imagine this book drawn by anyone else other than him. There are some great panels in there, a couple of nice splashes and the composition on every page makes the story flow really well.
On top of that (literally), you’ve got Dave Stewart’s colors complimenting Bertram’s line work beautifully. Stewart really makes the art pop with his bright, vivid color work. The book is absolutely sodden with a rich, blood-red running throughout it and it really sucks you into the story.
With House of Penance, It’s been refreshing to see a miniseries that maintains a steady level of quality throughout, a lot of series these days are trailing off towards the middle and finishing with a whimper when it should be a bang... From this issue, I’m going to say that we’re going to get a helluva bang (or should that be helluva 'blam blam blam'?) from Tomasi, Bertram and Stewart.
Verdict: A great issue all-round and it comes wrapped in a lovely cover worthy of the book's cover price alone. If you like your horror comics and you’ve already read the previous issues, keep up the good work and get yourself a copy. Matter of fact, get two copies. One to read and one to frame because this book is a masterclass in how you do horror comics and the fact the story is woven with elements of truth makes it all the creepier. If you aren’t reading this book, you’re missing out.
Although… if you haven’t been reading from the beginning of the series, you can check with your local comic shop for back issues (I’m going to guess you won’t find them, but it’s worth a shot!) or download them digitally via ComiXology. Failing that, get yourself the trade when it comes out. It really is a treat.
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House of Penance #5
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital