Wednesday, May 8, 2019

House of Whispers #9 Review and **SPOILERS**

A Tale Untold

Written By: Nalo Hopkinson and Dan Watters
Illustrated By: Dominike “DOMO” Stanton
Colors By: John Rauch
Letters By: AndWorld Design
Cover By: Sean Andrew Murray
Edited By: Molly Mahan
Associate Editor: Amedeo Turturro
Assistant Editor: Maggie Howell
Executive Editor: Mark Doyle
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: May 8, 2019


We were promised a story battle at the end of the last issue, and by gum we’d better get it now! Mind you, it’s sort of weird to promise a story within a story, but it’s not the first time it has been done. George Orwell crammed like a whole third of another book in the pages of 1984! Let’s hope it doesn’t get that dire in House of Whispers #9—and you can find out by reading my review! Right here!

Explain It!

Though I haven’t seen a challenge between a Cajun goddess and a primeval spider avatar, I’ve seen plenty of story battles. I’m sure you have, too, whenever two fellows with diarrhea of the mouth have a few drinks, and think to “one up” each other with tales of their daring, or some happenstance. “You think that’s something? Well one time I ate eight Wendy’s triple hamburgers one sitting.” “Oh yeah? Well I once roasted a whole cow on a spit and ate that by myself! Truth be told, it didn’t yield as much beef as eight Wendy’s triple hamburgers.” While there are no rules, per se, it’s expected that the stories be grounded in some historical fact; embellishment and editing is expected, but fabricating yarns out of whole cloth, well that’s just lying.
Madame Ezrulie plays the game well, telling a story about the first time she met Mazhikeen, Lucifer’s lisping concubine, and helped the two of them escape from the belly of a gigantic Fire Wyrm. Ananse, however, is not satisfied, and counters with a tale of Latoya’s little sister Habibi, who was once imbued with the spirit of the snake god (and one of Ezrulie’s husbands) Damballa, and who still thinks she is immortal. Telling her story, Ananse is able to make Habibi fly off her swing and almost hit the ground face-first, then Ezrulie steps in and beseeches her husband to save the kid. This is weird to me: for one thing, Latoya and Maggie’s ghosts are still farting around in Ananse’s cave, and I could swear they went topside in the last issue. For another thing, manipulating current events…is that really a story? I mean, maybe in the broadest sense, but if I am getting punched in the face, it’s not like I would tell the tale of getting punched in the face simultaneously. “And then I took a jab to the eye. And then to my jaw. And oh, another sock in the eye!”
Furious, Ananse tells Ezrulie that tampering with the story counts as her turn, and Ananse gets to go again. This time, she tells a story of Habibi walking under a highway overpass to find her sister and Maggie, being led by a whispering voice. She finds them, sleeping in a homeless camp, looking dirty and eating garbage. They seem alright with it, then Ananse sends their souls back into their bodies. Before that, Habibi reads from a magic book she literally got from some guy on the street, and everything around them goes dark. Ezrulie is rightly pissed, and send the goose man back to her houseboat/husband to open a specific door, just as Ananse grabs Ezrulie and binds her in web, ready to drain her of…stories, I suppose. Meanwhile, back on the boat, the Corinthian has showed up! And back with Habibi, Toya and Maggie—they are in the belly of a Fire Wyrm!
It was nice how this story tied into Ezrulie’s opening salvo, but the in between stuff was kind of stale. Like…Ananse is just forcing things to happen, that’s not telling a story as much as it is writing a story…and telling it during its creation. It works on a technicality, but it just didn’t right with me. These ancient gods, however, can be a capricious lot. More to the point of this issue, it was rather dull. I think there are too many human characters who are more of a distraction from anything interesting, at this point. The storytelling is very strong and easy to follow. But whether this is a story worth telling is another thing entirely.

Bits and Pieces:

The contest of stories between Ezrulie and Ananse is off to an underwhelming start. Ananse’s stories have real-time repercussions, which probably wouldn’t float in an official Olympic setting. Here, though, they’ve got to play by giant spider rules.


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