Panya’s in “Witchfinder” and we couldn’t be happier.
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Illustrated by D’Israeli
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Clem Robins
The Witchfinder gets invaluable information from a strange source with ties to the Heliopic Brotherhood, meanwhile, the supernatural activity in London hits a tipping point when a crazed, seemingly possessed man attacks people in the streets, and the dockside is thrown into an uproar when an enormous monster appears over the Thames.
Mark Tweedale: Well, this was a fun issue. Just having Panya and Sir Edward in the same room talking to each other was great.
Christopher Lewis: Agreed. I do have to say I was a little concerned at first with Chris Roberson bringing Panya into the “Witchfinder” world. While she is a great character, I didn’t want anything to feel forced or over the top with her interactions with Sir Edward. Happily my concern was unfounded, and I was happy with their interaction. Especially the end of it, where we saw Panya being her typical devious self.
Mark: I must admit, I shared this concern. You know when you’re reading a story and they start having characters cross paths and it’s just a little too convenient or even contrived? That was something I was a little worried about going into ‘The Gates of Heaven’ #3. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to see Panya and Sir Edward in the same room together, but I didn’t want to feel the hands of the author pushing them into that room.
However, the central mystery Sir Edward is investigating is so deeply connected to the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra and to ancient Egypt and Vril, that it would actually be more contrived if Sir Edward and Panya didn’t cross paths. It is an inevitable part of the investigation. Sir Edward would have come off as a bad investigator if he hadn’t crossed paths with Panya.
Chris: Building on that, I really enjoyed Roberson’s use of an actual event in history to connect Panya to the story, specifically the end of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign. This was tumultuous time in Egyptian history when the Pharaoh instituted the first monolatristic State of Egypt worshipping the god Aten (the sun), which was considered a cult by the populous due to going against traditional polytheistic beliefs. Spoilers ahead. That being said, it’s pretty obvious from the beginning of the story that the heavenly fire called Aten harnessed by the Pharaoh is actually the Vril. Considering Panya is in the same city as the Pharaoh at this time, I am beginning to wonder if Panya’s longevity is somehow connected to being touched by the Vril?
Mark: That’s certainly possible, especially considering that opening scene with Cedu-Barra talking to young Panya about Vril. Knowing that this story links up to the prologue of “Abe Sapien: The Drowning,” I figured he might show up at some point, but I had expected we’d see how he ended up possessing Epke Vrooman or something like that. I certainly didn’t expect to see a flashback to his time in Ancient Egypt. Actually, this issue leaned heavily on its connections to ‘The Drowning.’ Sir Edward even got his Lipu dagger.
Chris: We probably should talk about D’Israeli’s unique approach to depicting Panya. The imagery actually took me a little while to get used to it, but once I determined D’Israeli just made Panya look like a mummified corpse, I started to like it. It’s not what we have seen in the past, but it’s a pretty accurate interpretation of what she would really look like.
Mark: It kind of reminded me of how Mignola drew Panya on the cover of “B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls” #4, really emphasizing that she’s a corpse with the lips pulled back from the teeth. It’s a take I found interesting at first, but it means her face behaves more like a mask with her mouth frozen and sunken eyes with limited expressive range. When you look at Panya as portrayed by other artists, especially Guy Davis, she’s very excessive. You lose something when Panya can’t do her usual thin-lipped smile.Continued below
Chris: Something else I found surprising was when Panya mentioned that William Bright, a member of the Heliopic Brotherhood, has a proposed “True Secret History of the World” theory. I remember mention in “Hellboy in Hell” #10 that a person by the name of Amelia Dunn had written a book with that same name. I am now curious if Amelia and William are somehow connected.
Mark: There are many “True Secret History of the World” stories in the mythology of the Hellboy Universe, most of which are at best partially true and at worst outright fabrications. Amelia Dunn’s is one of those rare true ones. I can’t remember hearing the name William Bright before this issue though…
I suppose we should get to grading. I’m giving this one a 7.5. It’s odd that in an issue with a zombie priest and a dragon-like sea monster, the conversation with Panya stole the show for me. The zombie priest was pretty great though. There’s certainly a lot more going on in “Witchfinder: The Gates of Heaven” #3 than we’ve talked about here.
Chris: Panya definitely stole the show. Her conversation with Grey, and really everything else here, was set up for the next issue. The zombie priest and the whale that you mentioned are a glimpse of where this series is going, and I am excited for it. That being said I am going to give this one a 7.5.
Final verdict: 7.5 – Another solid issue. This certainly draws heavily from “Abe Sapien: The Drowning,” but it kind of has to. “Witchfinder: The Gates of Heaven” #3 packs a lot into its twenty-two pages.