Penny Dreadful #1
Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Artist: Louie De Matinis
Publisher: Titan Comics
FC – 32PP – $3.99 – On Sale: Jun 22
“The hit TV series is presented in comics for the first time! This prequel reveals the terrifying events that led Vanessa to try and find her missing childhood friend, Mina Harker, and exposes the true nature of the vampiric monsters infesting Victorian London. Beautifully realized by Louie De Martinis, and written by the scriptwriters of the hit show!”
The wonderfully drawn prequel to the first series of Penny Dreadful is more a delight for those who are already very familiar with the show and less and entry way into the whole universe for the casual comic reader.
The subject of the Penny Dreadful comic covers scenes from the first series that happened before we joined those characters, fills in the gaps that get missed out in the (many) flash backs littered throughout the show. It mainly revolves around Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm Murray tracking down Sir Malcolm’s lost daughter Mina Harker who was abducted away from her husband Jonathan Harker (both of Bram Stocker’s Dracula).
Although Penny Dreadful is filled with characters taken from many of the classic pre-19th century pieces of literature, one that we never see (and hardly hear about) is Dracula protagonist Jonathan Harker. In the comic, we finally get introduced to him as Vanessa and Sir Malcolm follow clues as to Mina’s whereabouts and find out more about this mysterious `Master` (Dracula without ever calling him Dracula)
Those who ARE familiar with the TV series will recognise the first five pages of the comic as being scenes from episode “Closer Than Sisters” from the first series, those less familiar will gain a lot of background history of what has happened between the Murray family and Vanessa. Once we’re past this the comic really becomes a story of its own and we get a better understanding of the relationship between Sir Malcolm and his daughter Mina. Sir Malcolm will never win Parent of the Year, so it’s of no surprise that he and Mina had parted ways in less than friendly terms, largely due to her marriage to Jonathan Harker, a man he deemed below his family’s station and thus he didn’t give the marriage his blessing. Those that know the story of Sir Malcolm and his son will probably agree that this isn’t the worst thing he’s done as a father (or even just as a person).
The comic really benefits from having been written by the show writers, giving us a sequential story that fits perfectly in with what we get from the TV show. Many times one will read a comic book or novelisation tie-in that hasn’t had the screen writers’ artistic touch, nor their knowledge of the show/game/film, and you can really tell that characterisation is off, or there is information and plot points in the tie-in that either outright contradict the original source or create a massive conflict of information (if anyone read that travesty of the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel comic, you’ll know what I mean).
Another thing that the comic and the TV series both have in spades is the amazing Victorian Gothic visual. The art of the comic book is satisfyingly dark and stylistic; it is a cinematic visualisation that makes each panel and scene pop from the page. Louie De Martinis bring us art of almost photographic quality, you have no doubt of the skill that went into capturing the actors’ likeliness, and the vivid colours and solid blacks used in the backgrounds are particularly eye catching.
The combination of art and writing make Penny Dreadful #1 an amazing read and most certainly an issue you’ll go back to time and time again, even if simply to immerse yourself in the fantastic visuals of the comic. However, this DOES read as a comic more for big fans of the show and it may be a struggle for lay readers to get into the story. I definitely recommended keeping an eye on this comic run though, as it may transform itself into something amazing but independent of the TV show.
Title: Penny Dreadful #1
Reviewer: Fia @madame_fifi