After being drawn to a new comic book I’d picked up Penny Dreadful which has actually left me with mixed feelings. On one hand it’s based off of classic horror novels (a particualr love of mine) but it also serves as a tie-in for a television show of the same name. Unfortunately I’d never heard of Penny Dreadful before picking this book up, so I thought what better way to get acquainted with the series than with a comic adaptation?
Writer: Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Artist: Louie De Martinis
Publisher: Titan Comics
Available: Out Now
After looking up a little background on the show, I’d explain Penny Dreadful as a type of Expendables super team up type of deal, only classic horror literary characters in place of action movie stars. Which admittedly, sounds like an excellent idea and appealing to fans of the old-school horror genre.
After reading the first issue however, I’m not entirely sure if it’s being executed as well as it could be – Maybe this one’s on me for not watching the show beforehand? Sadly where I was hoping that the comic wouldn’t depend solely on its television counterpart and instead reference it at point to give something satisfying for the invested fan while appealing to new readers (see the recently published Dark Souls or classic Firefly graphic adaptations for example).
For fans of the show; the story begins with Vanessa being visited by Mina Harker. She requests Vanessa to save her from a demon that kidnapped her, who then takes this information to a Sir Malcolm Murray . The two then set off, we get some decently scripted action scenes with some wolves and everything comes to a crash… quite literally. Like I said, it’s really something for existing show fans and isn’t going to forgive newcomers with it’s character introductions or explanations.
The plot of the first issue is plays off like a plot to a typical Mario game – Damsel’s in danger, the heroes have to go save her. They never explain who either Mina is to Vanessa, and Malcolm, or why they’d want to go rescue her. This is all because the writers are assuming I’m already a fan of the show… which I’m not and I hate to say it but I don’t think I ever will be. Penny Dreadful’s comic didn’t exactly make me want to see these characters pull through, and I’m more than content with their adventures ending with this issue.
But really, comics are a VISUAL art form, and what matters most is the art. Well… Penny Dreadful is certainly well drawn. I’ll give it that much. A small portion of it’s time isn’t spent looking all that interesting, but whenever the action picks up (and believe me, this thing is around 26 pages worth of comic, with 11 of them being action scenes) is when Penny Dreadful actually becomes a pretty decent comic. The bit where the protagonists fend off a pack of wolves is especially well done, where the panels seem to dull and subdued blues to create the image of a foggy night in a forest. At times the comic really does look stunning.
Then you see the people, and everything comes crashing down. The locales look beautiful, but the people look like subhuman abominations in most panels.
Needless to say, I don’t think I’m going to call myself a fan of Penny Dreadful. Despite the good action this comic provides, the story is very thin, and does nothing to entice me to watch the show this comic is based off (which was clearly the point of the comic). Not to mention, making a comic based off a show, and then not offering any sort of means for people who don’t watch the show to understand the comic, is a pretty cruddy way to try and get a larger viewer base. But, maybe if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll like this comic a lot more than I did.