Previously on the Penny Dreadful series finale, “The Blessed Dark”
Following the abrupt, heartbreaking end of Penny Dreadful, fans were left eternally reeling from the tragic death of Vanessa Ives in Ethan Chandler’s arms, sudden disappearance of Dracula and Lily, banishment to Egypt for Mr Lyle, and cliffhanger for the rest of the Dreadfuls. After covering both the series and prequel comic, I was more than suspicious of this comic sequel, which was written by series co-executive producer Chris King. But, someone must sacrifice and decide if this is a worthy balm for our pain, and, ultimately, I am a sucker for all things Penny Dreadful.
Six months after her death, Vanessa’s accusatory spirit haunts Ethan’s dreams. Feeling she is following him through the world (she might be, but Lily is, too), he seeks professional help from Dr. Seward for his guilt. Further, he asks her for help controlling his “dark and monstrous nature” via hypnosis. At the Cutwife‘s home on the full moon, he transforms in front of her eyes.
On his archaeological expedition for Egyptian artifacts worthy of the British Museum, Sir Ferdinand Lyle discovers a tomb full of forbidden hieroglyphs depicting the apocalyptic conjoining of Amunet and Amun-Ra, brought to life when Vanessa’s romance with Dracula led to a pestilent, albeit temporary, apocalypse in S3E8 “Perpetual Night.” But it doesn’t end there: a neighboring illustration shows an impending battle between Set/Lucifer and Amun-Ra/Dracula, with mankind torn between. Finding a Verbis Diablo-inscribed sarcophagus purporting to contain Belial and the power to grant Lucifer a body for said battle, Lyle commands the tomb be blocked off forever, against his sponsor the Duke of Kent’s protests. A month later, Kaetenay sees a vision of the still apparently oncoming battle, driving him to “seek others.” (Other werewolves? Other heroes? Other people who don’t explain things?)
Upon Lyle’s return, he regretfully visits Vanessa’s grave with Malcolm and invites both him and Catriona Hartdegen to the exhibition gala. Not surprisingly, the Duke, revealed to be a Sons of Darkness cult member, unveils the cursed sarcophagus and slaughters two men to awaken Belial, commanding him to create an undead army so Lucifer and the Sons can rule the earth. Does that ever work? As the gala begins, the mummy rips out a patron’s heart.
To be continued…
The back matter in Penny Dreadful comics is always an insightful treat for series fans. This one includes character development sketches for several characters and an essay by co-executive producer and issue author Chris King on the birth, casting, and development of Penny Dreadful. Best trivia: series creator John Logan first proposed the idea to King while in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland. King draws a parallel from his experiences growing up as a gay man finding a welcoming community to the Dreadfuls’ outsiders-turned-family, which he strives to continue in the comic series, particularly with Lyle.
So, Should I Read This? Be Gentle.
Having bonded with many fellow Dreadfuls, I completely understand the raw feelings that remain over the series finale and trepidation over this comic sequel. While it can never replace a satisfying, un-rushed final season(s), I sensed a conscious effort from the author to stay true to the tone, depth, and relationships of the series and to reassure us that Vanessa had made a willing and worthy sacrifice. This issue had a considerable amount of material as compared to the prequel series, and the art, particularly in Egypt, was detailed and eye-catching in keeping with the show. Happily, my complaint about the prequel comics’ overuse of Photoshop filters versus original drawings seems to be resolved. Thematically, it feels necessary for those of us who hated the dangling thread of Dracula’s inexplicable escape, and I am always in for a mummy story, so I will be giving this comic series a chance.
If you read it or have decided not to, let me know in the comments what you think!