You can’t imagine the sort of grief a goddess has until you see her attempting to plant life in a vast, ever-shifting, otherworldly landscape. The kind of place where prayers are heard, but not necessarily answered. It’s where Erzulie mourns one of her husbands. After the narrative arc where the battle with the god Anansi amounts to significant losses, Erzulie alongside her other husband Ogun try to pick up the pieces in a way that only immortals can. In issue 13 of ‘House of Whispers’ combines the everyday lives of people with the supernatural in a way that will have you clutching your imaginary pearls.
Nalo Hopkinson and Dan Watters have been dropping dialogue gems for twelve issues where the voodoo divinity Erzulie deals with the happenings in the Dreaming. No character is safe, not even Erzulie herself who is tricked by Anansi and killed along with her husband Agwe. Though Erzulie is resurrected she doesn’t come back the same and Agwe doesn’t return at all. Juxtaposing the healing Ogun suggests is the struggle of Djuna to maintain some sense of sanity.
Djuna has a trifling boyfriend and a creepy neighbor with a ghastly pet. All she wants is to make a bit of comfort food. Finding an egg, that is drawn and colored to carry the heavy load of the storyline, Djuna starts a series of events that cannot be controlled. Looking like a dead bantam, Djuna nurtures what comes from the cracked ovum seemingly in the same way that she handles her relationships, destructively. Aware that she is being taken advantage of and possibly stalked Djuna constantly internalizes everything. All the excuses she makes to hold onto a caustic existence is manifested through this tiny fowl.
None of the events that occur in this comic book mean anything without the artwork. Just have a look at the cover. A giant, maniacal looking chicken overtakes the visual narrative as a smiling Erzulie looks on. The arresting chicken in the foreground with a newspaper in its beak pulls you in. Even if you’ve haven’t picked up the previous issues and know nothing of the Vertigo/Sandman universe you have to find out what is happening with that chicken. Then there are moments where sunlight, flowers being reborn and the healing sensation of the earth lull the reader into a sense of hope. But this is the Sandman universe where bad things are sure to come, regardless of the time of day.
What Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ has done for rabbits, ‘House of Whispers’ has done for large chickens. And while Matthew Dow Smith and Zac Atkinson breathe a spirit into Hopkinson’s and Watters’ words, all bring to life a band of characters that feel real. Subtitled ‘Wicked Burn Part II’ there’s sure to be an ever increasing danger for everyone and anyone who gets in the way of one badass chicken.