HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 by Nalo Hopkinson and Dominike Stanton
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 suffers from the same problems as its preceding issues. Nalo Hopkinson, while brilliantly incorporating Voodoo mythology into her storytelling, has a tendency to forego explaining events in favor of furthering the plot. As such, I found myself with more unnecessary questions than answers by the end of this reading.
83 %
Strong but Flawed
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THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE series of comics has really been a blessing to Neil Gaiman fans. Thanks to new creative talent, his ever-wonderful world 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 goddess Erzulie Freda and her companions acting strangely.

After attempting to escape the Dreaming through a strange rift, their minds have been shattered. Freda faces uncontrollable anger. Uncle Monday has slipped into base animal instincts. Shakpana’s cruelty has tripled since their impromptu journey. With her life and those of two mortal girls spiraling, Freda needs to find a solution quickly. Thankfully, the Bayou always has an answer.

Twisting Magic

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

The previous issue of HOUSE OF WHISPERS truly showcased Nalo Hopkinson’s narrative abilities. It gave readers a strong, straightforward adventure that dripped with tension. HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 isn’t as strong of a showing. However, it still succeeds on a number of levels. The narrative is fairly easy to follow, with interesting twists and turns. In fact, based solely on the avenues of Voodoo that Hopkinson explores, this story is just dang cool. From Uncle Monday breaking out crocodile medicine to Erzulie Freda shifting to another aspect of herself, the magic in this story truly feels unique. As a longtime lover of fantasy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, and that’s a high compliment for this genre.

While the narrative works, it does have its problems. As in previous issues, Nalo Hopkinson doesn’t dig deep enough into these events. She never definitively says what the Rift did to these gods or why. What happened to Maggie and Latoya, and why are they able to affect others’ souls? There are aspects of this world, important and necessary elements, that simply haven’t been explored yet. I find it difficult to keep pushing forward through this story, no matter how cool or interesting it is, without more concrete information. The Voodoo mythos is something barely touched by modern pop culture. Hopkinson has a brilliant opportunity to carve her own niche with HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3. She simply needs to take this opportunity and use it.

Imperfection Abound

House of Whispers #3
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

This same lack of information sadly spreads into the characterization. By now, Erzulie Freda, Uncle Monday, and Shakpana have some fairly concrete personalities. Nevertheless, there’s no exploration of how this magic actually affects them. Freda literally stabs another being during her Rift-induced madness, but very little is said about her feelings. The more grievous error, though, comes from Freda’s literal shift in personality. Freda becomes Erzulie Dantor. This protector aspect has some truly interesting moments, but very little is said about this shift. I want to know how the two personalities differ. They seem like they should be completely at odds with each other but, until we know more, I can’t say for sure.

With that said, Nalo Hopkinson still manages to do something really interesting in HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3. While the aftereffects of the Rift aren’t explored in full, the personality changes really illustrate the type of characters they affect. Uncle Monday, for example, goes to great pains to be a civilized, albeit still vicious, crocodile deity. He wears a suit and top hat, for God’s sake. However, when the Rift affects him, his personality flips to the opposite. He becomes only the alligator, wanting to tear Freda apart. This happens to every character. Freda’s anger reflects her typical kindness and desire to help. Goldie the Gargoyle is typically a sweet and loving character, only to turn savage under the Rift’s influence. We learn more about these characters from the way the Rift affected them, and that’s a brilliant storytelling move.

Magic Paintbrush

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

Dominike Stanton returns to bring her magical style of art to HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3. As always, her work is entrancing. The somewhat messy, frenetic linework adds a lot of energy to the story, and her character designs are still top notch. I especially loved the introduction of Erzulie Dantor. Her design is much simpler and realistic than to Freda’s.

While Freda is more mystical, covered in purple scales and able to turn into a mermaid, Dantor’s sole mystic visual element is a gold pipe. For this reason, she stands out amongst the strangeness of the Dreaming cast. I’m really excited for this series to continue just to see how Stanton further designs other Voodoo deities.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3: Final Thoughts

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 is a good story with some noticeable issues. While the plot and characterization do some interesting things, confusing fantastical elements belittle it somewhat. Hopkinson has a tendency to forego explanations to continue pushing the plot. This has its virtues, of course, but not at the expense of clarity. Still, despite these issues, HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 is an enjoyable read. I look forward to it every week. The combination of Dominike Stanton’s unique art style and the truly unique take on Voodoo Mythology helps this story stand out. It isn’t perfect, no, but it’s definitely worth your time.

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