I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this. You know those times when you discover a story about something you’ve heard about, even read about, but never given it much thought. Like when I learned the story of how the Cubs won the 1908 pennant. As a Chicagoan born and bred I’ve known that the Cubs have been on a dry spell for winning the World Series since 1908, but I never had heard the interesting story of their defeat of the New York Giants, or why people think the Cubs are cursed as a result to this very day.
But that is neither here nor there, THIS story is about one Sarah Winchester, the wife of William Winchester, the inventor of the Winchester repeating rifle and the mistress of the very famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California. The spooky house where the Mrs Winchester communicated with the spirits, who told her that she must keep up continuous construction on her home, or the spirits of those killed by the Winchester Rifle will find her and make her pay for their deaths.
The result is a sprawling mansion with 160 rooms (approx), 2,000 doors, and 10,000 windows. Stairways lead to nowhere, doors open on solid walls, and the entire home is a maze designed to confuse the vengeful spirits.
But what of the woman herself? What was she like? what was it like to work and live in a home where construction goes on and on every day and night forever?
That’s where the House of Penance takes us. We meet Sarah Winchester, her foreman, her workers, and the loss and regret that haunts her every day and night. We also meet a paid assassin, desperate to find a place to recover from his latest contract, who is drawn to the Winchester house by the incessant hammering and sawing that can be heard for miles around.
This first issue sets the tone for the story to come. I’m not sure at all where this story is going, but I love the premise and I am looking forward to finding out more. Will there be spirits? Or is the series completely reality based? Will we find out more about the still sharp but slightly insane Sarah Winchester became who she is? What about this assassin? Who is he, and will he seek to harm Sarah? Will he be redeemed? Or will the spirits of the Winchester House come for him?
There are many questions to be answered, and I’m looking forward to reading more. The artist has a style that I am not fond of, but it’s grittiness and honesty fits in well in this setting caught somewhere between the old west and the dawn of a new century, and so it has grown on me. Tomasi’s Story and Bertram’s art complement each other greatly here.
The first issue of House of Penance goes on sale April 13th.