The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is a uniquely American place. Built by Sarah Winchester, a widow who inherited the Winchester Repeating Arms company, it’s essentially one woman’s struggles with depression and her past rendered in wood and glass and brick. Construction commenced on the sprawling property in 1884 and rarely stopped until Winchester’s death in 1922. Winchester and others have claimed it’s haunted by the spirits of those who died at the wrong end of one of her company’s weapons.
That’s the genesis of Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram’s sublimely creepy old-school ghost story House of Penance. Tomasi spent the first issue setting up the basic concept, and this issue starts paying it off, as we see that the house really is under some form of threat. Throughout, Tomasi weaves threads hinting that a haunted house with doors to nowhere can contain even creepier secrets.
Bertram’s art communicates this with understated creepiness, weaving in disturbing images of tentacles that reach and grope for the humans in the house. Even more unnerving is the way he carefully distorts what readers see in a panel, be it faces or perspective. He captures not just the strange architecture of the Winchester House, but the unnerving atmosphere of the place.
There’s not a horror book quite like this on the stands, and it’s another feather in Dark Horse’s cap for the genre. If you want a comic that will make you sleep with the lights on, enter this house.
Black Panther #2
Ta’Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze follow up an interesting first issue with a compelling second. Coates is working with a sprawling canvas here, bringing in not just T’Challa but also a pair of lesbian freedom fighters, refugees from other African nations, and a complex mix of politics and anger. Everything about Wakanda is fictional, obviously, but Coates gives it the heft of reality and a rich moral complexity that makes the book fascinating.
Stelfreeze, meanwhile, pays tribute to the past, with little touches of Don Heck and Jack Kirby sprinkled throughout, while giving Wakanda a strong, shadowy look of his own. It’s a fascinating, different kind of book, and a bold step away from the usual for Marvel.
The Fix #2
Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber continue their hilarious over-the-cop crime comedy. Our “heroes,” two exceptionally crooked L.A. cops, have to try and do the impossible; get a “package” through LAX under the nose of Pretzels, the drug-sniffing dog. Their other option is get murdered by a sensitive New Age hippie crime boss. Hey, it is L.A. Lieber’s breezy art pairs well with Spencer’s black comedy, in particular during a sequence where you’re left unsure whether a “victim” has it coming or not.
Harrow County #11
Hannah Christensen takes over art for Tyler Crook, but Cullen Bunn’s literary horror story about Emmy, the witch in a Depression-era town, remains the same great horror comic it’s always been. This story, in particular, is a good jumping-on point as a one-and-done single issue that’s a tight, clever thriller. This is one of the best comics on the stands, so if you haven’t been reading, now’s the time to pick it up.
Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #6
Mark Millar and Wilfredo Torres deliver a strong, fascinating finish to the second arc of their ’60s-set look at superheroes. Millar’s script focuses on the Utopian and his struggles with whether he’s little more than a strongman for the social elites. How he ultimately deals with it, in a way that’s silly and facile and grandstanding, is contrasted with his marriage falling apart not because he’s a jerk, but because he’s just too damn perfect. Torres, meanwhile, contrasts it with clean, bright art straight out of the Silver Age, giving this book a sheen that serves as the perfect complement to a thoughtful take on where heroism fits in a messy world.
Kennel Block Blues #4
Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss finish their mashup of prison drama, funny animals, and Sesame Street with an ending straight out of The Shawshank Redemption… at least until the last panel.
The Dark and Bloody #4
This Southern-fried story about an Iraq veteran’s sins finding him out stands out as much for the characters as the gore; the “monster” here turns out to be more reluctant, and sympathetic, than you might imagine.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong #3
Rafer Roberts and David LaFuente turn Armstrong, a 6,000-year-old immortal, finally growing up into a hysterical action-adventure. The nude fraternity brothers help.
Southern Bastards #14
Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Deep South noir finally pays off something it set up nearly six issues ago, and it’ll make you wish the next issue was already here.
Satellite Falling #1
Steve Horton’s setting of Satellite, a space station where aliens who want to come to Earth are forced to live, is a great setting for this SF noir, and Stephen Thompson’s imaginative creature design is a joy to look at.
This Week’s Trades
The Massive: Library Edition, Vol. 1 (Hardcover, $40): Brian Wood and Garry Brown’s superb ecopocalypse drama opens with the complete collapse of society after an ecological disaster, and traces the journey of the Kapital, a crew looking for its sister ship. Wood and Brown are more interested in the human spirit than obliterating landmarks, but there’s no shortage of action in these first 15 issues.
Twilight Children (Paperback, $15): Darwyn Cooke and Gabriel Hernandez, best known for their solo work, team up for this gentle story of an alien “invasion” that strikes a small Mexican town. While the premise sounds like a monster movie on paper, Twilight Children explores how people with few options struggle with events they can’t control.
Daredevil: Back In Black (Paperback, $16): Charles Soule and Ron Garney take Matt Murdock in new directions with this gritty arc. Fans of the Netflix series in particular will enjoy the tone, while longtime readers will appreciate how Soule and Garney change up Matt Murdock’s professional and superheroic lives.