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House of Penance: Issue 04 – The Addictive Power of Violence

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I really like this series and its exploration of issues of sin and atonement. The artwork is dark and surreal and the writing is sparse yet moving. But this installment in the series also explores the related issue of addiction, specifically addiction to violence.

My favorite definition of addiction is that it is the constant searching for something outside yourself to change the way you feel within. For this reason, you can become addicted to anything that elicits a powerful feeling inside, and violence can certainly fall into that category. I have known people in my younger days who were addicted to the adrenaline rush of violent behavior, starting fights for no reason other than the thrill of the fight.

In this issue of the graphic novel, there is a scene where several men who are serving their penance for violent acts discover a room that houses confiscated weapons waiting destruction. The men stare through the glass with a deep longing in their eyes, like the recovering alcoholic struggling with internal conflict as he stares through the window of a liquor store.

If we honestly look at our society—the films we watch, the books we read, the games we play—we are forced to admit that we are a society that is addicted to violence, and yet we act surprised and abhorred when we hear stories of people actually committing violent acts. Now I am not condoning the censorship of violence in the arts, just as I would not condone banning alcohol, but we need to acknowledge that violence, just like drugs, is addictive and remain vigilant with ourselves.

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House of Penance: Issue 03

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With all the debate about guns in the US right now, there is a quote from this installment that really resonated with me.

You entered this house, Mr. Peck, on your own volition. You stay here because you want to. Because you need to. Each “blam” of a hammer reminds these workers of the blood they have spilt, be it innocent or guilty. Listening to the sound of a gun twenty-four hours a day is their penance—for embracing all that a gun has to offer.

There is poetic justice here, and I cannot help but think of the levels of Dante’s Inferno. We each must answer for our actions, and the punishment we face is often that of our own creation.

There is a lot going on in the world right now. Change is everywhere, and so is tension. I feel like we are on the threshold of something huge. I hear the constant drumming of the hammers as our new reality is being forged.

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House of Penance: Issue 02

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Wow, this is really a dark and disturbing tale. The imagery feels like it was conjured out of a nightmare. Tendrils of pain, regret, and suffering writher from floorboards and cracks, entwining individuals and drawing them into the darker realms of despair and insanity. Visually, this is some of the most psychologically disturbing material I have ever seen. But you just can’t look away.

There is one great section in this issue where Sara is melting down guns and pouring the molten metal into molds to create hammers. The accompanying text is reminiscent of something you would read in Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil.

From darkness comes light. Tools of death birth tools of life. From destruction… comes construction.

I am really enjoying this so far. If any of you are also reading this graphic novel, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Cheers!

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House of Penance: Issue 01

HouseOfPenance_01

On my most recent trip to the local comic store, I asked the owner of there was anything new that I might be interested in. He knows my tastes and considered for a minute, then suggested “House of Penance.” He had a copy of the first issue stashed behind the counter and the second issue was on the rack. The cover art looked intriguing and I was drawn to the concept of penance, having to make amends for things done in life. I decided to purchase the first two issues and give them a try.

After reading the first installment, my interest is definitely piqued. The premise is that there is a widow, Sara Winchester, whose husband and daughter recently died. Her deceased husband was part of the Winchester family that makes firearms. She lives in a large estate and accepts boarders who appear to have to atone for things they did. Boarders must relinquish all firearms and agree to work. The workers build doorways and staircases that lead nowhere.

This first issue basically begins developing the characters and the foundation of the story. The artwork is detailed and disturbing, and the writing is very good. The dialogue is very realistic and each character has a unique voice.

I don’t have much else to say at this point. I will be reading the second installment soon. Look for my thoughts on that issue later this week.

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Creepy: Issue 23

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On a recent trip to the comic store, I opted to discontinue a couple arcs that I had been following. I had just lost interest and it felt like they were dragging out the stories. So, I perused the racks looking for something different and then an issue of Creepy caught my eye. The cover—dark, gothic, and spectral—enticed me. I have loved horror since I was a kid, and I used to read early versions of Creepy growing up (much to the dismay of my parents). I had read a couple of the “new” Creepy publications put out by Dark Horse,so I decided to pick this one up and give it a read. I have to say, I really liked it.

The stories in the issue were reminiscent of the old graphic horror tales I remember from my childhood. Even the black-and-white artwork captured the shadowy essence of early graphic horror. And rather than being serialized, where you have to commit to issue after issue following a labyrinthine arc, Creepy is composed of several short vignettes, each one a stand-alone tale steeped in folklore and the macabre. I particularly liked one story entitled “The Picture of Death,” which was about an 18th century traveler who stays in a boardinghouse room that has a cursed painting. The painting, populated with grotesquely surreal creatures right out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting, comes to life and draws the unsuspecting man into a nightmarish realm. It was an amazing depiction of how art can also unlock darker regions of the psyche which can lead a person into insanity.

The inside of the back cover is a single-page one-panel tale depicting a mythological demon who creates a play so dark that reading it drive a person insane. I thought it would be worth sharing  the accompanying quote.

Hastur, ruling from the lost, mythical city of Carcosa, revels in chaos and madness. None dare read the play written by this malicious entity, for fear of going insane, crying for salvation while Hastur’s soul-shattering stories give none.

Beware, precious reader, for you too will end up as the pitiful wretch seen here—one whose mind has traveled too far into the realm of the King in Yellow, only to be trapped with countless other lost souls!

If you have an interest in the macabre, then this is something for you. But be warned, these tales are not for the timid.

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Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952: Issue #2

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It seemed like a long time since the first issue came out, but looking back, I guess it wasn’t that long. Time must be getting weird for me.

Anyway, this is a pretty cool comic. This installment continues where issue 1 left off and has a priest chanting in Latin. Now, since I do not read Latin, I have no way of validating the accuracy of the text, but some of the words were familiar so I am going to have to go on the assumption that the writers did their homework and used actual Latin text.

Without including any spoilers, I’ll say that Hellboy and the other B.P.R.D. agents encounter some beast, which resembles a primate but with long hair. But there are several other sub-plots happening, which I can only assume are connected somehow. This adds a nice touch of mystery to this story. I get the impression that each issue will reveal a little more, and then things will all come together at the end. I have to say that I really enjoy that kind of storytelling. It helps to keep my interest.

The last thing I will say is there is a bit of a twist at the end of this issue. There are definitely some clandestine things going on. I’m quite intrigued and looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

If you’ve read this, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, just try not to include spoilers. Cheers!!

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