Read a Random Post

HELEN OF WYNDHORN (review) —“Lost passion fills the space”

Writer: Tom King

Artists: Bilquis Evely, Matheus Lopes

Dark Horse 2024

GODS KINGS QUEENS sprites demons and scary things are said to have infused the earliest human dramas, played by firelight, before language, when rhythms and movement, dance and allusion, communicated ideas among the people and fused them as a family with long memories of their ancestors, and the trials and triumphs of their great ones. Drama was not a language of artistic fiction, but artistic memory.

The great mansion and estate at the center of HELEN OF WYNDHORN, a new story just out by writer Tom King, and artists Bilquis Evely and Matheus Lopes, seems to be a portal to this primeval fire-lit time, when force, more than grace prevailed. An attentive steward tells Helen when she first arrives she may freely roam the Wyndhorn grounds, just don’t go farther, into the woods, it’s … not safe.

The handsome house alone in the country is in itself a drama of artistic memory, in architecture, and impressive collections of books, weapons, wines, and little luxuries like fine porcelain and silver settings, a spacious bath, and fluffy towels that make life so charming to endure. Orphaned Helen brought “home” to her grandfather’s place wants to see it all at first, and we follow, until she finds the wine, and that’s about it for her for a month or so. That gives us time to settle in, and finally meet the old man.

In characteristic style, author Tom King is taking a slow swing around the field in a widening circuit, uncoiling like a spring attached to a heavy gear. Slow. Churning beneath the surface. By the end of Issue 2, granddad and Helen set off to see what’s out there in the deep of the woods; and it’s not Kansas.

Part of the weirdness in the house is that geographically it really is somewhere near Kansas, within a week’s journey north by train from Texas, where Helen was fetched by her newly hired governess, who tells us the story in her old age. Earlier, whole mansions were transported in pieces across North America and rebuilt on peaks, prairies, the principal cities, the loveliest places, rarely so grand as Wyndhorn, but duly impressive in their rugged surroundings. This is a believable fiction.

Yet, such a treasure is a target, and one wonders what keeps the place safe. Other than papa Wyndhorn’s evident ferocity. The best security is when people, or whatever else is out there, respect the symbolic virtue of the estate, its contents and operations, and respect personally those who live there. We used to have a noble class of leaders raised in houses such as these, with long memories and broader views of the world; and still do.

In this story, as in most of our dramas replicating the days when kings and queens ruled, the grand house looks like a hotel, a museum piece, inhabited by a brute. If these are the ones left to mind the estate, no wonder so many disappear. This is probably why the Wyndhorn patriarch wants Helen home. She has more depth than we know.

Moral direction so often points us forward, toward an infinite future, where anyone can hope to flourish, like a newly budding plant—and of course every individual has to go with that, what else—but the soil also matters, what you did before, what your parents did, what thousands of generations before you traditionally built up here to meet you. Yesterday matters. We love to remember, but also to forget, so we end up, as in this story, touring a grand edifice with no one living there, and no one who knows how to live there.

In 1907, when the people of Morocco started to fight to reclaim the country from the French, they eventually got round to the isolated European houses in the countryside.

“Ha! Those houses were beautiful. We of the country had never seen such wonderful things. We were afraid of them. Surely they must have been from the evil spirits. So we smashed and tore down all we saw … We wrecked and burnt and sang.”

These people, too, had their own long memories, burnished in firelight. We shall have to see if the Wyndhorn estate survives.


Influenced by Lord Raglan (1936), The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama. Quotation from Andrew Hussey (2014), The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs.