WARNING: As this comic is a sequel to the television series, it contains some minor spoilers from the show.
Sometimes the best things aren’t meant to be, and a Victorian period TV series rooted in Gothic horror drama featuring iconic characters from literature lasting long-term was too good to be true. Despite receiving critical acclaim and good ratings during its three-season run, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful – named after the label given to pulp serials of the 19th century often deemed cheap and lurid – ended last year following the departure of creator, John Logan. The decision to call it a day when they did was the plan all along, and while resisting the temptation to see their vision through was admirable, saying goodbye to this world was a hard pill to swallow for fans.
But, thankfully, the story lives on through Titan Comics. After publishing a well-received and thoroughly enjoyable prequel story last year, they’ve returned to the universe, this time with The Awakening, a sequel series exploring the aftermath of the events which transpired in the dramatic final episode. Here, six months have passed and Ethan Chandler is plagued by the death of his lover, Vanessa, whom he murdered per her request for the greater good. Feeling lost, devoid of purpose and unable to move on, little does he know that his doom and gloom will soon be exacerbated when a new threat arrives London with destruction on its mind. Elsewhere, in Egypt, Mr. Lyle and the Duke of Kent discover a sarcophagus whilst rummaging through a tomb boasting hieroglyphics which warn of disaster. Nothing good ever comes from meddling with the dead in these scenarios, but in this case the consequences could bring about the end of days.
Written by series producer Chris King with illustrations by Jesus Hervas, The Awakening is already shaping up to be a successor on par with Showtime’s cult phenomenon. King does an excellent job introducing a new story arc with long-term potential; steeped in Egyptian legend, doom prophecies and the occult. Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that, in true Penny Dreadful tradition, the universe’s mythology is expanded through the introduction of age-old names you’ll be familiar with. This is a world where all our favourite monsters could exist, and King has unleashed a formidable foe with a storied history – of the biblical kind. If you watched the show then you’ll have spotted the hints already, however; and while it’s a shame that we don’t get to see it transpire on screen, it does make for some engaging reading. Couple this with the ongoing narrative established by the TV show and you have a recipe for success.
Hervas’ artwork is understated but fitting; reminiscent of the horror comics of the 1970s, albeit with a modern touch, every panel is detailed and refreshingly old-fashioned – as it should be in a series like Penny Dreadful. Jason Wordie’s colouring work brings it all to life rather splendidly – and gruesomely. All in all, the combined talents of both artists make for a visual feast that’s immersive and will undoubtedly tickle the sensibilities of fans of Gothic genre fare of yesteryear. Here we have a series that’s operating triumphantly on every conceivable form from the get go, but the throwback style of the illustrations gives it some extra macabre charm.
Like the old serials of the 19th century, Penny Dreadful: The Awakening is unadulterated in its sensationalism; but, like the show, that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Whenever a universe like this presents itself, pray to the elder gods that it’s around long enough to see its potential fully realised. Penny Dreadful is a world which lends itself to its latest medium perfectly and long may it continue with Titan Comics, whose recent output has been mightily impressive. While it’s too early to make any bold predictions, on the strength of last year’s prequel series and now this, there’s no reason to suggest that Penny Dreadful in comics can’t become something truly special. Only time will tell, but for now, I highly recommend it.