House of Whispers No. 6 review: “Open the Unusual Door”

Suffering and bad choices abound in the latest House of Whispers.

Many comics are becoming movies or television shows lately. The Sandman, an amazing comic written by Neil Gaiman in the ’90s, has been discussed for decades, but nothing has ever come of it, mostly because the fantastical imagery wouldn’t translate off the pages into a different medium in a way that would honor the source material. Good. Leave the comics to tell their own stories. Vertigo decided to publish four new tales set in the Sandman universe; Lucifer, Books of Magicand The Dreaming all revisit previously existing runs, while House of Whispers is an entirely new story, focusing on voodoo and African/swamp magic. Written by Nalo Hopkinson and Dan Watters, illustrated by “Domo” Stanton, colored by John Rauch, and lettered by AndWorld Design, with a cover by Sean Andrew Murray, this latest issue delves into the personal histories of gods, and their complicated relationships with each other, using powerful visionary art that wouldn’t translate into another medium as well as comics.

Vertigo Comics

Unwritten books, bad memories, and rituals occur in House of Whispers

Last issue, the good gods got one up on Shakpana, god of plagues, by getting some pages from his journal, which might hold the key to stopping his living dead plague. This issue starts out with Uncle Monday, alligator god, heading into the library in Dream’s palace, where every book never written is contained, to search for the book that contains solutions to Shakpana’s plague. After being chased out of the library by followers of Judge Gallows (which tells us that this story takes place before the most recent events of The Dreaming), Uncle Monday relives his past, having visions of being sold into slavery and becoming the alligator god he currently is. Habibi brings the stolen pages of Shakpana’s journal to Erzulie’s human contingent, who use them to summon Shakpana, Damballa, and Ogun, two husbands of Erzulie, the triple goddess. Back in The Dreaming, Erzulie herself dives into the water to save Agwe, who was flung through the Rift last issue. This is illustrated in vivid and ghostly detail, showing just how talented Stanton and Rauch are.

Vertigo Comics

How to steal power from a goddess and other dirty tricks

Shakpana’s plague has separated the souls of the living from their corporeal forms and trapped them in The Dreaming, where they begin to siphon power from Erzulie to make Shakpana stronger. In the waking world, Damballa and Ogun manage to bind Shakpana, thanks to Uncle Monday’s grief and anger scaring off the souls in The Dreaming. Erzulie can’t reconstitute Agwe on his own, so she binds him to her newly constructed House of Whispers, and prepares to pilot her House(boat) of Whispers out of The Dreaming, to someone who can help Agwe. Meanwhile, Maggie and her lover plan to get their souls back by heading directly into The Dreaming, with the help of the captured plague god, Shakpana.

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With bold imagery and a heavy dose of voodoo lore, House of Whispers manages to show the follies of the gods and the humanity of everyday people with both compassion and detachment. One wonders if the characters in HoW will finally meet up with the characters in The Dreaming, as big stuff is happening in both issues. This isn’t a comic where you can just pick up an issue and understand what’s going on, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can be confusing for someone trying to dive in uninformed. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.