14th Jul2017

‘Penny Dreadful #4′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Chris King | Art by Jesus Hervas | Published by Titan Comics

PennyDreadful_2_4_Cover-A

Well that went fast. We have reached the final issue of the first story arc somehow. If I have any criticism at all, and I have enjoyed this series far too much to do more than slightly nit-pick, it is that Chris King has packed in perhaps too much too soon. He clearly has a ton of great ideas that are just spilling out, and maybe a more slow and steady approach may have paid off more down the line. But that’s a talk between Chris and his editor methinks. I’ve enjoyed it all plenty, thank you very much, just don’t run out of ideas any time soon.

A recap of what’s gone before would just take too long, so here’s the quick version. Way back in Ancient Egypt Belial was in love with Amunet, and was recruited by Lucifer to become his servant. Amunet’s betrothed, Amun-Ra, was Dracula, and the eternal Lucifer-Dracula conflict ended with the death of Amunet. Belial tried to resurrect her, but Dracula stopped him. Now Belial has returned to reclaim Amunet, most recently returned in the form of none other than Vanessa Ives. But she’s dead right? Kind of. As Dr Lyle explains, Belial can resurrect her with the heart of the man she loves. That would be a certain Ethan Chandler of course, who has just returned to London…

Ethan is, as you would understand, not overly impressed with this revelation. Even less impressed by the fact him, Dr Lyle, Sir Malcolm, Dr Seward and Catriona suddenly get engulfed by the undead, in a sort of Victorian Night of the Living Dead. The group split up, divided but holding out. Ethan knows he will have to unleash the wolf, but is reluctant to in front of the others, especially Sir Malcolm. As Dr Lyle gets his neck chewed, Ethan has no choice but to turn, and things get very bloody for a time. Unfortunately Belial and the Duke of Kent capture Sir Malcolm, and Ethan is made to stop. Both are taken away. Catriona fights her way out, and sees the escaping Duke taking Ethan and Sir Malcolm.

Time to take a breather as we check in on Kaetenay, on his personal quest in Siberia, to try and avert a coming disaster. He makes contact with the Tikaani tribe, Native Indians from that region, to try and enlist their help in the coming fight. Another interesting sub plot is the appearance of Lily, seemingly a born again Christian after leaving Dorian Gray. She has seen Ethan again, who she remembers and still loves from before her resurrection when she was the prostitute Brona. Ethan has no idea she is ‘alive’, but that looks like that may change in the near future.

Catriona, meanwhile, has gone to call on one of the few people left that she can call on, Dr Frankenstein himself. Since Vanessa’s funeral he has gone into a traditional Harley Street practice, distancing himself from Sir Malcolm and Ethan. He refuses Catriona’s request for help. Victor, however, is not on the up and up as he pretends. He is secretly working on something with Dr Jekyll, but that’s a story for another day.

The main event comes around, as Belial begins the resurrection of Amunet/ Vanessa, with Sir Malcolm and Ethan forced to watch. The cavalry arrive, in the form of Lily and her army of god-fearing girls, who manage to free Ethan, who suddenly realises Brona is alive. Well, Lily. That will be an interesting conversation. As great as that scene is, it gets trumped by two more. Sir Malcolm may have made the ultimate sacrifice, judge for yourself when you read it, and Vanessa’s back. or is she? Chris King uses his box of tricks from his day job as a scriptwriter to double down on the ‘to be continued…’ bit.

This was hugely entertaining from start to finish, but again felt as though it could have filled two issues, not just the one. The story and characters worked very well, the revelations hit home, and some characters may go as more arrive. The art, by Jesus Hervas, all murky lines and scratchy backgrounds perfectly suits the book, and he does an excellent job of fitting in all the text, of which there is a lot, and still making his art shine. His panels probably pull Chris Kings pacing back in line a bit more than it would otherwise be.

This book has been a revelation, every bit as good as the show itself. All the creative team involved should take a bow, they deserve it.

****½  4.5/5

Penny Dreadful: The Awaking #4 is out now from Titan Comics

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