House of Whispers #1
Writer: Nalo Hopkinson
Artist: Domonike Stanton
Curated by Neil Gaiman
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
House of Whispers #1 is the second of The Sandman Universe storylines to debut this month, following The Dreaming #1 last week (which I highly recommend checking out!) Not unlike the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets (currently occupied by Cain and Abel), the House of Dahomey exists in a realm that mortals can only reach in their sleep. There in the dreamer’s bayou, the lively Vodou goddess Erzulie Fréda listens to their tales of heartbreak and desire, peering into their souls and their fortunes. She counsels them, but often grants what the dreamers believe they want, even though she knows what they need better than they do. In House of Whispers #1, the story of four human girls and a mysterious journal they found filled with rumours has washed up Erzulie’s river. As she watches them from her realm, she can sense something, or someone, is trying to enter the human plane; something she has perhaps underestimated.
Unlike The Dreaming, many of these characters in House of Whispers are new to the Sandman Universe and so this issue takes some time to build the atmosphere and introduce the players. I most enjoyed the scene in Erzulie’s houseboat, where various dreamers come to call upon her wisdom or assist her in counsel. Her realm follows the logic of the Dreaming and fits in seamlessly, even if we don’t completely understand how her magic works. Nothing is ever truly explained in the Dreaming afterall, at least not rationally. That being said, exploring Erzulie’s realm left little time for the actual plot surrounding the girls and the mysterious book. Their part in the story isn’t particularly interesting, and the allure of the Vodou loa had me quickly reading pages to get back to her. Next issue is likely to have more development in their story, but it feels like House of Whispers is split between two plots and isn’t quite sure which to follow.
Domonike Stanton’s artwork is vibrant, colourful, and wonderfully authentic. I loved the representation in this comic, and the small details are what make the story so genuine. I especially appreciated the various attire and hairstyles, particularly the women, which beautifully celebrates our diversity. At times, the character’s faces were a little inconsistent, but not enough to be distracting.
Verdict: Check it out
House of Whispers #1 has some interesting moments and is steeped in Caribbean tradition, but felt a bit disjointed as it tried to find its groove. However, events in this issue already signal there will be some crossover between the storylines, so I’d still pick this one up if you plan on following the Sandman Universe lineup issue to issue.