Penny Dreadful Issue #1 Variant Cover (wrap around) By Louie De Martinis
Best Shots Advance Reviews: PENNY DREADFUL #1
Penny Dreadful #1
Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Andrew Hinderaker and Chris King
Art by Louie De Martinis
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Penny Dreadful should not work as well as it does. Showtime’s ambitious marriage of classic literary monsters and the bloody, sexy world of premium cable dramas has proved to be a critical and commercial success for the network and continues to garner a larger fanbase as it premiered its third season. Now Titan Comics looks to tap into that same vein with Penny Dreadful #1, and I am happy to report they succeed. Scripted by one of the show’s third season writers, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, working from a story developed by other members of the show’s writing staff, this debut issue functions as a lost episode from the first season, delving deeper into Vanessa Ives’ tragic life as well as her and Sir Malcolm’s war against Dracula for his daughter Mina’s soul. Along with some truly terrifying and beautiful visuals from Louie De Martinis, Penny Dreadful #1 is a confident and thrilling debut issue that shows that Titan Comics continues to show extra care to delivering the best possible versions of the properties under their imprint.
Slotted firmly into the narrative of the first season, Penny Dreadful #1 follows Vanessa as she receives her first ghostly vision of Nina, her estranged best friend, who is locked deeply under the thrall of Dracula and his undead legions. Eva Green’s Vanessa has long been a pillar of the television show and writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns smartly uses her to hook audiences into this debut issue as well. Fans of the show will marvel at her smooth transition from screen to page thanks to Wilson-Cairns’ firm handle on her proper-yet-pointed voice as she demands to see Sir Malcolm despite Sembene’s objections, and her insistence on accompanying them into battle against the Master.
While Krysty Wilson-Cairns does a fantastic job giving us an accurate characterization of Ives, she extends that same attention to both Sir Malcolm and Sembene. Though the cast is a bit thin, aside from a very shocking surprise character who makes his debut in the Penny Dreadful universe after numerous mentions, Wilson-Cairns makes the most of their inclusion and provides more than enough for fans and newcomers alike to mull over long after the issue has done.
While Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ script falls in lock step with the pulpy gothic tone of the show, Louie De Martinis hammers that tone home with dark, bloody and engaging panels that will look all to familiar to fans of the Showtime hit. His smooth, yet wild looking pages push this debut into full on horror territory much sooner than the television show did with his opening pages of Dracula and Mina’s den of horrors as well as a harrowing attack on Sir Malcolm’s coach by a pack of enthralled wolves. Coupled with his photo realistic renderings of the actors, Louie De Martinis renders Penny Dreadful #1 like a stylized fever dream, eschewing the period accurate sets of the television show and replacing them with hazy backgrounds and digital colors that heighten the supernatural elements of this debut; providing a distinctly different visual pallet from the show, but one that still looks and feels right at home in the world of Penny Dreadful, taking full advantage of the fluidity of comic book visuals instead of making it look like just a static episode of the series.
Though clearly marketed toward diehard fans of the television show with its teasing glimpses of the story within the story of season one, there is a lot to love about Penny Dreadful #1 for fans and non-fans alike. Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Louie De Martinis use the solid base of the show’s established characters and narrative to deliver an adaptation and side story that isn’t afraid to stand on its own as a single story, instead of using the show as a crutch to be relied on throughout. And it does so confidentially thanks to the attention from the writers, blood soaked visuals, and an imprint that goes out of its way to deliver unto fans exactly what they love about the show, just in a different medium. While Penny Dreadful became an unlikely hit for Showtime, there is nothing unexpected about the quality of this debut issue from Titan Comics