DC Comics / Vertigo
Writer: Keith Giffen, adapting from Hans Rodionoff
Art: Enrique Breccia
FC, 144 pgs
$17.95 US / Higher in Canada
The works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft aren’t exactly light beach reading, but if you put in the time, you’ll be rewarded with some of the creepiest and most disturbing horror stories around. Elder gods, dark rituals and unspeakable evil– I’m talking serious nightmare-type shit, here. The man was a gothic genius and his works have influenced and an entire genre, from Stephen King to Hellboy. He either had one hell of an imagination…or everything he wrote about was real.
Such is the premise of Lovecraft, a Vertigo Comics graphic novel. It imagines H.P. Lovecraft’s writings as fact instead of fiction– a chronicling of the author’s lifelong contact with evil from another dimension. The result is partly a biography and partly a macabre tale placing the author inside what is essentially one of his own works. We’re treated to an inside look at the man behind the madness, from his childhood and writing career to his ill-fated marriage. Yet woven into the story is a tale worthy of H.P. himself, featuring a cursed book, terrifying visions and familiar faces and locations resurrected from his various works. It’s a great concept based on a screenplay by Hans Rodionoff, and aside from some jumps in the narrative and a slightly rushed ending, it works very well.
The artwork is where this book really shines. I’ve never heard of artist Enrique Breccia before, but this is how Lovecraft was meant to look. Breccia’s pages are a mixture of Edward Gorey, Steve Templeton and fantasy novel illustration, with a hint of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen thrown in to reflect the era. If that sounds like a crowded dance floor, it’s because Breccia frequently shifts his style, creating a world of stark contrasts. Reality is drab and highly detailed, while each nightmarish creature is an explosion of blurred watercolor. Everything is slightly off-kilter in Lovecraft’s world, emphasizing his descent into madness. The deranged protagonist himself is no exception, with his protruding lower jaw, glaring eyes and slightly tilted head. Very nice.
With its focus on the reclusive author and subtle references to his works, this is ultimately a story aimed straight at H.P. Lovecraft fans. If you swim in that end of the geek pool, this book is a must-have. It brings a fascinating new perspective to the man and his mythos, with a background that is clearly fiction, yet almost believable. Plus, it’s beautiful to look at. On the other hand, if you’ve never read The Call of Cthulhu, and you think Brown Jenkins is a sexual position, you might want to skip this one. It’s still a solid horror read, but you might not think it’s worth the price. (David Brennan)