Previously in Penny Dreadful: The Awakening #2.3
In the last issue, after learning of Amun-Ra and Belial’s ancient battle over the power residing in Amunet, our Dreadfuls had assembled at Grandage Place, unaware of Belial’s plans to use Ethan’s heart to bring Lucifer into the world of men through Vanessa’s body. And anyone who hadn’t previously read an issue just clicked off, so, Whew! we’re finally alone to talk about this issue, which, frankly, has some major controversy so I suggest you put on your anger pants.
Ethan scarcely has a moment to digest the new developments when Belial’s thralls break into Grandage Place. Malcolm and Ethan shuffle the others off to the basement and regroup and re-arm in Ethan’s room, giving Ethan time to confess his true nature and offer to destroy them all alone, but Malcolm of course refuses, calling Ethan “my son” and promising never to leave him. Never. Sadly, Sir Lyle is bitten by one of the beasts.
Ethan turns into his wolf and does an admirable job cleaning house, but Lucifer’s servant, the Duke of Kent, threatens to shoot Malcolm, distracting Ethan long enough for Belial to leash him with silver. Gripping up the two men, the Duke of Kent orders Grandage Place burned to the ground. Catriona shows up and… doesn’t prevent it from happening, so I’m honestly not sure why she’s here. *bites knuckles over Grandage Place* On the upside, and, I suppose, downside, the Duke tells Ethan he is a Lycanthrope and knows all about them, which seems to stun Ethan despite knowing that Kaetenay is also a wolfman. The Duke calls for “Miss Lily” to clean Ethan up for the ceremony. Veiled to conceal her face, Lily proselytizes Ethan but doesn’t free him or do her job. Instead, she prays with her fellow Holy Whores.
Meanwhile, Kaetenay seeks the indigenous Lycanthropes, or Tikaani, in Siberia for their help against the coming darkness, and Belial gets cranky as hell with the Duke. Catriona seeks help from Victor, but Dr. Frankenstein, who has secretly begun a new practice with Dr. Jekyll, sends her away. Strangely, she doesn’t mention Sir Lyle at all, only Malcolm and Ethan, which stokes Victor’s fires of jealousy. Nevertheless, he excuses himself from Jekyll’s next experiment to help Catriona, who, again, does nothing and arrives too late.
At last, Ethan tells Malcolm that it was he who slaughtered Sembene and he doesn’t deserve to live, but Malcolm instead takes the blame for bringing him into this entire drama originally and says he would give his life to ensure Ethan’s happiness. At Vanessa’s graveside, Belial prepares to gut Ethan over Malcolm’s protests that he too was loved by Vanessa, but is interrupted by Lily’s Holy Whores who rescue Ethan. Alas, Malcolm is left behind and Belial rips his heart from his chest, excitedly bringing “Amunet” back to life. Surprise! It’s Lucifer, chump. In Vanessa’s body. To be fair, that was always the deal, but mummies are not the smartest.
So, listen. One of my complaints about the series finale is that Sir Malcolm spent the entire series coming to grips with the loss of his daughter, Mina Harker, and the tragedy befalling Vanessa. Vanessa was ready to give her life to save Mina, whom she had wronged so long ago, but Malcolm chose to save Vanessa over Mina, proclaiming her his true daughter. Forgive me, but, in such a tragedy, his narrative role as an older man was then ultimately to give his life to save Vanessa’s. Yet, my suspicion is that, due to the story compression demanded by the series’ cancellation, this fatherly focus transferred to Ethan, who already had an adoptive father in Kaetenay, necessitating Malcolm’s death be moved to a later time and save his other adoptive child. There were some stunning artistic moments in this issue, especially the cover, but, I just cannot buy that this arc was always meant to take place.
Again, the unnamed power residing in Vanessa is pushed aside for Lucifer to simply take over her body and return to walk the earth. This doesn’t make any more sense than Dracula pairing with her so he could mope around in a pestilential fog. Where is Vanessa’s power?! Why would her body matter any more than any other husk in that graveyard once the spirit is departed from it? Reviving Vanessa Ives for the sake of re-playing the final act when it isn’t even Vanessa is more tragic than the tragedy itself. It is also sad that the side characters are scurrying around impotently, particularly Catriona. Lastly, it is a bit classic that the grand female goddess was subverted, the female action hero is slumped over Malcolm’s body, and the undead female powerhouse became a nun. Here’s hoping for pleasant surprises in Issue #5.