Mostly spoiler free critique of Penny Palabras –
Penny Palabras is a book with a calm quiet. It’s a soft snowfall, with all the novelty, wonder, and eeriness of walking your neighborhood alone late that night, before the powder has felt enough traffic to become the crunchy crud you’ll hear the next day. Issue three of this grayscale, supernatural story, fittingly begins with a heavy dose of white. It’s the most we’ve seen in the series so far, and it makes you take notice. Even when reading for review, I tend to read passively, preferring to let the story come to me rather than play detective. This installment still has the same dreamy atmosphere, but the white makes you do a double take, and once they have your attention, you’re challenged to question the fundamental assumptions. Why does Penny have this access to the supernatural, and why do entities like the Straw Man torment specifically her?
Even in this episode we’re confronted by characters that sway between half-truths and excesses of knowledge, but at some point the lens of this narrative has to shift into greater focus – especially as a single question flows into an avalanche. If the Tiger Devil despises the Straw Man so much, why couldn’t he destroy him on his own? How he can hold Penny hostage for help, when it seems he might need her even more himself? Who really burned the library and killed the Librarian? At first it seemed so obvious the Straw Man burnt it to keep Penny away from valuable information, but maybe the message, “no book can save you,” was not a warning but a piece of advice?
Penny Palabras is also a chronicle of artifacts. The fiction of my childhood was filled with trinkets like energon cubes and mystical weapons like the Sword of Omens, so I’m right at home here with “The Spectacular Revolver” and “The Detachment Bell.” Were you to ring this bell, it would shift your perception of the world, of reality – permanently. It’s a dangerous artifact, which enters the story under mysterious circumstances. These devices all build upon each other, or maybe more accurately orbit her life, swinging farther and closer from her possession, much like the way time is described in a page that any time travel junkie will get a kick out of.
My rating: 4.5/5
In a world full of monster mash genre soup stomach aches, it’s refreshing to step away from zombies vs werewolves vs vampires and indulge in a mythology more concerned with establishing its own rules than being ultra slick and hip. I like Penny, and I admire her brave face as she stares into a mirror of somber madness. If she can hold on just a little while longer, her antagonists may flinch first.