In the season 3 premiere, “The Day Tennyson Died,” Penny Dreadful names Dracula as its next villain, circling back to the season 1 vampire arc ending in Mina Harker’s death at the hands of her father, Malcolm Murray. In S1E5, “Closer than Sisters,” we learn of the rift between Mina and Vanessa Ives, her childhood best friend. Years pass before she appears to Vanessa on the beach, saying she’d married a Mr. Harker but is now enslaved by a vampire. The Dreadfuls’ quest to save her from the vampire’s clutches ultimately fails in the season 1 finale when Mina attempts to secure Vanessa for her Master, and Sir Malcolm must shoot Mina to save Vanessa. But… the Master was never named, nor was he found, until season 3.
Since the premiere, we’ve additionally witnessed the seduction and enthrallment of Renfield, giving us an understanding of the enthrallment process, as it were, spring-boarding us into this comic book, which fills in a bit of that missing time in season 1.
As the comic begins, the unseen Master gives Mina instructions to bring Vanessa to him, offering her a drink of his blood as payment. Following is a replay of the scene between her and Vanessa on the beach, in which Mina forgives Vanessa but blames her for not being more romantically forthcoming with her deceased brother Peter. She then begs Vanessa to save her from the Master, setting the snare, and disappears. Vanessa enlists Malcolm and Sembene’s (sob!) help, and they embark on a nighttime journey to Mina’s home. On the way, Malcolm admits he’s never actually met Harker thanks to his classist snobbery. Oh, Malcolm! That ego!
Red-eyed wolves overthrow the carriage, but the party survives, partially due to the Murray/Sembene badassery team and partially due to their supernatural fear of Vanessa’s powers. One of the wolves returns to the vampire nest, and the Master condemns it to be torn apart for spilling Vanessa’s blood. How a pack of demonic wolves was supposed to waylay a stagecoach and capture a human woman without harming her is unclear, and so that is perhaps my least favorite sequence.
Once at the Harker estate, the Dreadfuls find darkness and blood and battle a minor-league vampire who is nonetheless more than a match for their mortal weapons. Fortunately a masked crew of vampire hunters assists, led by none other than Jonathan Harker.
Art-wise, the cover by Guillem March is absolutely stunning. Inside, the illustration style changed several times throughout the book. My favorite sequences were the dreamy ocean scene, the blues of the forest, the modern Harker estate panels with blood streaked through the darkness, and the colonial preacher-style depicting Jonathan. I was excited to realize that the comics, written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and illustrated by Louie De Martinis, would be filling in missing events from the series, so I am very much looking forward to seeing what stories unfold throughout this run.
Penny Dreadful #1 = 8.7/10