Review by Ian Keogh
For a British published series of graphic novels based on a TV show, Penny Dreadful takes an interesting approach by following the European method of serialising stories over several books. After an introductory volume, The Awakening introduced many of the cast used here, and they follow into an as yet untitled volume scheduled for the end of 2018.
The Awakening introduced us to Belial, ancient Egyptian manifestation of evil now resurrected in the 19th century and keen to be reunited with the lost love from whom he was torn all those centuries previously. As a sideline, Belial also managed to resurrect his master, known to most as Lucifer, and now inhabiting the body of Ethan Chandler’s dead wife Vanessa. For reasons not entirely clear, Ethan is fundamental to Lucifer’s plans, as is the opportunity to influence the elite in Victorian Britain. Characters who played little or no part in the previous book are now weaved in by writer Chris King, so Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, and Dr Jeckyll appear, and the strong presence of Catriona Hartdegan cements the story as occurring during the TV show’s third season.
Cast likenesses aren’t on the agenda for artist Jesús Hervás, who instead populates the book with impressionistic versions of the characters, which works equally well. Character design remains a great strength. Scarred nun Mother Joan was introduced in the previous book, but has a larger role here, and Hervás’ design for her is notable, given the look of someone who’s battled pure evil her entire life, headbutted it a few times, and wears the resulting scars on her face.
Assorted people on both sides of the battle consider the biblical apocalypse is imminent, but can still be thwarted, as there’s a device known as the Sable Flame that dispatched Lucifer back to hell once previously, and can do so again. That, however, is a matter for another time, as much of The Beauteous Evil occurs in Bedlam, London’s notorious Victorian sanatorium for the insane. Victor Frankenstein and Dr Jeckyll have been working there…
The simple idea of transferring to the past the hellfire and damnation so often used in modern day horror stories provides a freshness, and while the cast have familiar names we can’t really claim to know them, so they do also. King slots his subplots together nicely and the looseness of the art provides a kinetic rush heightening the immediacy of danger. All in all, very nice.