Families are a complicated thing. Poquita the young woman who’s been abused by the parents who stole her as a baby from a detention center, after her mother died giving birth finally strikes back. She realizes that revenge isn’t the answer. And by issue 19 of ‘House of Whispers’ she’s on her way to finding her purpose. Then there’s Papa MIdnite and his sister Luna. Centuries before brother and sister were practitioners of Voodoo who used their abilities to subvert the man who tried to enslave them. Mixing history into this story, after betraying the rebel Kofi who wanted to be rendered indestructible Papa Midnite was forced to kill his sister and be cursed with immortality until white oppression comes to an end. He still lives. Finally, there’s Erzulie, her ex-husbands and the husband lost to her Agwe who’s trapped inside the House of Whispers. If ever there was a comic book emphasizing complex relationships it’s one that’s part of the Sandman Universe.
Marcio Takara’s cover tells you everything in the story without giving anything away. Erzulie cradles what seems to be a dead black man who looks as if his lower half is made from the bow of a ship. His top coat has the feel of a long forgotten war. But it’s the deceptively serene look on Erzulie’s face along with a sailing vessel in the background that the reader should be aware of. Looking deeper it appears that Erzulie has joined the dead man’s legs or part of a rock. Though when the reader enters the beginning of the comic-book she continues to sing to herself in an attempt to be rid of the feelings of loss and sorrow, but by the end she’s drawn completely in control. Perhaps it’s because Erzulie appears part mermaid where at one point she has scales, then in other panels her bra looks like fish scales and she wears fishnet stockings under her miniskirt. Traditionally mermaids are known to lure seamen to their deaths with a song. Fully in control once she meets Poquita for the rest of the comic Erzulie in her full, voluptuous stature makes a commanding presence. Even when she is drawn in the background or to the side her self-awareness makes her the most important person in the room.
The subtitle of this tale ‘So Our Souls May Fly’ is another way of joining several narratives together. Erzulie gains clarity in how she can solve her problems. Poquita begins to embrace her destiny, even Corinthian gets to flex and give some special nightmares. All those teeth he’s so happy to no longer be a watcher. There are things that are unresolved. Papa Midnite doesn’t get satisfaction and Anansi makes a threatening appearance. Nalo Hopkinson with Dan Watters writing the story with artwork by Dominike Domo Stanton et al have made black characters long ignored or marginalized tell a story that you don’t want to shake loose from. Issue 20 subtitled ‘I Will Meet Thee Sister, In the Land of Souls’ with its glowing ship already looks like a must read. Perhaps Death will make an appearance.