HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 by Nalo Hopkinson and Domonike Stanton
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
While HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 has some initial issues with pacing, Nalo Hopkinson and Domonike Stanton have developed a story worthy of the iconic SANDMAN series. This is a magical and wonderous title that deftly builds on Gaiman's world of magic.
95 %
Magically Incredible
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The universe of Neil Gaiman’s original SANDMAN series was massive. With only ten volumes and a few spin-off series, the entire scope of this huge magical entity simply couldn’t be explored. Now, with the release of Vertigo’s SANDMAN UNIVERSE titles, new writers have the opportunity to dig deeper into the Dreaming and beyond. Stepping outside of Daniel’s lands, HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 takes readers into the magical land of voodoo. Yet does this series carry with it the same sense of wonder as Gaiman’s epic?

Erzulie Freda — the matron of the Voodoo pantheon — has thrown a party, and all dreamers and gods are welcome. However, one guest has failed to arrive. Her cousin Shakpana, the Dahomey god of plagues, has made his way to the mortal realm. His book of rumors and whispers has found its way into the home of three New Orleanian sisters. They simply think it’s nonsense, the impetus for a clever little game of telephone. However, with Shakpana seeking to break free and steal the book from these siblings, that game could quickly result in their deaths. Now, Freda must feed off of the power of her dreamers’ many rumors in order to stop this lost spirit.

A House of Wonders

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 is a book absolutely teeming with a sense of wonder. It flourishes in the weirdest parts of Gaiman’s SANDMAN universe and the most obscure aspects of Voodoo lore. The way writer Nalo Hopkinson slowly explores Freda’s home feels so satisfying. She fills this book with interesting new pieces of canon. The alligator spirit Mister Monday, the plague god Shakpana, even the varied dreamers of Erzulie’s house are simply teeming with personality. This is a book that pays brilliant homage to the wondrous, magical worlds of Gaiman’s iconic comics. More importantly, it does so with a deep and profound respect for the real mythos and lore of Voodoo practitioners.

I think my sole problem with HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1, though, stems from this wealth of information. For the most part, Hopkinson has a masterful control of this book’s pace. However, near the issue’s end, I started to feel a bit confused. Freda spends a good portion of the story stealing rumors from her guests to find the power to stop her cousin. I understood this element, but each rumor scene simply flew by too fast. I had to read that section a couple of times to fully understand the scope of events.

Hopkinson also relied a bit too much on my suspension of disbelief. She goes into such detail about Freda’s world, but our New Orleans sisters don’t get the same attention. How did they get Shakpana’s book? Why was it in the Dreaming? How are these three mortals tied into this grand narrative of the SANDMAN UNIVERSE? I felt like these questions needed to be answered sooner, but Hopkinson never fully approaches them.

Wealth of Characters

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 relies heavily on its rather large cast to make its story work. Luckily, Nalo Hopkinson absolutely nails this element of the story. Her look into Erzulie Freda and the sisters is absolutely satisfying. I especially enjoyed the distinct separation in personalities between these two components. Freda is so self-aware and over-confident. She knows everything about the world of Voodoo, even elements of her own powerset that the mortals seem to overlook. So it makes sense for her to be in this story. She’s obsessed with the goings-on in the mortal world, and her massive personality only made me want to listen every time she opened her mouth.

In the mortal realm; Latoya, Lumi, Habibi, and Latoya’s girlfriend Maggie are such an interesting group. I suppose some may complain about their lack of individuality. They really thrive as a unit, and in nearly every other story, this would be a definite issue. However, they somehow work. I think it’s the sister relationship above all else that makes these characters stand out. Habibi — the youngest — especially has a ton of personality, and she plays nicely into the believable sibling dynamics.

Above all else, though, HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 succeeds because Hopkinson doesn’t limit herself to the main characters. Instead, she puts equal love and attention into the side figures as well. Mister Monday especially had me laughing with his dialogues on how and why gators eat the way they do. Hopkinson’s story simply sets itself up for success in this regard. This is a book about the power of rumors, the things people try to hide from others. That means we have no choice but to delve into even the least important character’s deepest thoughts.

The Art of Simplicity

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Dominike “Domo” Stanton handles the art in HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1. In all honesty, this artist knows visual storytelling. His style is rather simple, which is a major compliment. He has boiled down his characters and locations to the most important visual information. Outside of that, though, he has a masterful understanding of character design. One only needs to look at the mermaid-like Freda or the rough skin of Uncle Monday to get a glimpse at the wonders he creates. I especially loved when reality and magic blended, like when Shakpana attempts to break into the sisters’ home. Stanton has a really good eye for how to twist realistic elements for the sake of the story. I’m really excited to see what this artist decides to do next.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1: Final Thoughts

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 is a wonderful and magical little comic that does a lot to expand Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN universe. It has some pacing issues, with some important information getting slighted for the interesting haunts of Erzulie Freda’s riverhouse. However, Nalo Hopkinson makes up for these issues with outstanding characterization and incredible world design. Pair that with Domo Stanton’s fantastic art, and you have an icon in the making.

One Comment

  1. […] has seen new expansions and explorations in twisting, interconnected narratives. Among these is HOUSE OF WHISPERS, Nalo Hopkinson’s journey into the world of Voodoo deities. HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 sees the […]

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