Previously in Penny Dreadful: The Awakening #2.4
Issue 4 saw the death of Sir Malcolm Murray, his heart used by Belial to bring Lucifer back into the world through Vanessa Ives’ body. Lily and her fellow nuns swooped in to save Ethan Chandler, leaving Catriona Hartdegen and Victor Frankenstein to fend for themselves as Lucifer rose and reclaimed his (her?) power.
Ethan is understandably confused about the whole Lily/Brona thing, but THERE’S NO TIME! NO TIME TO EXPLAIN! Because this is 24. Between fending off ghouls on the road and rolling into Sisters of Mercy Headquarters, Ethan begs for an explanation, but nobody gives him anything beyond his being the Wolf of God. Ethan can’t quite make sense of the Sisters of Mercy’s nun-ninja training facility. Explaining their secret mission to protect humankind from evil, Mother Joan looks suspiciously craggy and inexplicably grotesque, insinuating she may have been around the last time Lucifer walked the earth and warning that her next step is to draw her many creatures of darkness to herself.
Creatures of Darkness, Assemble!
Belial, the poor sap, tries to call forth Amunet and gets the most hardcore shutdown ever:
Lucifer revives the Duke of Kent, offering back his life in exchange for infiltrating the royal circle. Of Belials’ thralls, she creates dark angels, nephilim. Dorian Gray, mid-dance and soon to be menage a trois, hears Lucifer’s voice reminding him of the deal he made to remain forever young and requiring he kill his lovers. He retires to the secret chamber housing his monstrous painting, receptacle of his sins, and bids it to release itself. As the final dabbler in the dark arts, Victor, arriving at the last moment to help Catriona, struggles to escape Lucifer’s gravitational pull and earns a slap across the face to snap him out of it.
Finally she gets a chance to kick some ass and get them both, and Macolm’s body, safely back to Lord Hyde’s office at Bedlam where Renfield awaits them. I guess breaking Victorian HIPAA laws and eating toads on your boss’s desk will get you fired from legitimate secretarial work. While Lucifer gathers her assorted minions, including some extra demon witch creatures like Hecate (RIP, or whatever), street ruffians, and sinning folk sexing it up, Lily toys with Ethan’s emotions a bit, saying she just wants to be near him, but when he kisses her, she’s not about that life either. But what she is about is destroying Lucifer, and for that, they need to consult his brother, Dracula.
Y’all JUST had him in your grasp a few weeks ago!
When Lucifer-as-Vanessa says, “Love is dead,” it feels more like she’s saying, “The real plot of Penny Dreadful is dead.” This issue seemed, more than ever, to jump the rails from the original atmosphere and dark romance of the show and into a monster movie that could have never been realized on screen. To some degree, this is good; the art of turning her thralls into nephilim and of Dorian’s inner nature escaping the painting was exciting and Gothic as hell. Lucifer-as-Vanessa is bleakly sexy, and I can’t imagine the TV show pulling off Catriona beating down so many demons in a believable way. On the positive side, Issue 5 poses interesting questions, like…
Why is Mother Joan visibly ancient?
What will Dr. Jekyll and Victor do with Malcolm’s body?
How will they engage Dracula in the fight and at what cost?
That said, there are weaknesses to this development and with the plot in general. Now that this is an action-packed monster thriller, nobody seems to have time to explain anything, which is a huge trope, as is the “secret society training facility” we’ve all seen a hundred times. It’s quite exhausting to continue being invested in Ethan’s true purpose as Lupus Dei when it has become obvious that the writers are deliberately concealing it, implying that once it is explained, the jig is up. Lily’s childhood rescue by the Sisters of Mercy doesn’t track with her previous backstory of being turned out and married off to an abusive man at a young age. It’s also a bit disappointing to see Dorian, on his first appearance, turned into a mindless zombie. Lastly, Lord Hyde’s dialogue felt unnaturally affected and his introduction of Bedlam as his home when he has the Hyde Estate didn’t make sense. I do, however, love the twist on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde identity crisis: Lord Hyde, the proper socialite, and Dr. Jekyll, the evil scientist. Overall, I lament the loss of Gothic passion and goddess magic which fueled the show and my hopes that this comic series would satisfyingly conclude the TV series as it was meant to be, but once one releases those expectations, there are some gems to be had in The Awakening and I look forward to the mysteries above being answered in upcoming issues.