See all reviews of House of Penance (3)

Peter Tomasi (writer) and Ian Bertram (art) blend the bizarre real life history of the Winchester House with a strong dose of horror fiction.

Is it good?

House of Penance #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

The Plot

  • *checks Wikipedia* Nope, nothing about bodies being exhumed from their graves. This story is going dark early.
  • Sarah Winchester is even creepier than I imagined her…and I think she may have a thyroid condition.
  • At least she’s not massacring Native Americans, though. This new guy is a terrible human being.
  • Get a bunch of contractors together, make them work ’round the clock on some nonsensical floor plans, and add a dash of post-Civil War racial tension. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you create a powder keg.
  • Yeah, this new guy is gonna be bad news for everyone, which is truly saying something in this place.

Is It Good?

I imagine if you don’t know the bizarre history behind the Winchester House (which is a fascinating tale in and of itself), then this story might seem a bit disjointed. We don’t get a lot of background on who Sarah Winchester is and what may be causing her bizarre behavior. Some folks may consider it ‘common knowledge,’ but there were a few details unknown to me that I felt compelled to look up.

Even with that knowledge, however, the assassin who is introduced into the narrative still feels terribly out of place. I trust Tomasi to expand on him as the story continues, but his presence in this particular issue isn’t very congruent with the rest of the story.

What does work, however, is atmosphere. Tomasi immediately establishes that things are wickedly weird and heading down a dark path. Also, my snarky ‘thyroid’ comment aside, Bertram’s art is splendid. Sarah Winchester’s eyes alone will haunt your dreams. He also does a great job giving the Winchester House a chaotically organized aesthetic.

House of Penance #1 may have sacrificed too much narrative to establish its mood, but it was still more than good enough to warrant a return visit.

House of Penance #1 Review
Ian Bertram's art is splendid. Sarah Wichester's eyes alone will haunt your dreams.Peter Tomasi draws on a bizarre bit of American history to set up a dark and horrifying tale.
Unfortunately, the narrative suffers a bit at the expense of the story's emphasis on atmosphere.If you don't know the real life story of the Winchester House, the plot might feel a little too random.
6.5Good
Reader Rating 1 Vote
5.0