I had my reservations about this book. I must admit that. The premise was very familiar. Author’s horrible stories become reality through magical force of will. But to cast one of my personal favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft, in that position seemed particularly blasphemous. Lovecraft is a frequently misunderstood writer and it would be easy for any comic writer to latch on to the misconceptions going around about Lovecraft. However, I’m pleased to announce that the first of four issues is that rarest authentic portrayal of the man. Obviously its mixed with the fantastic, pairing facts of his life, the element of the era with the cursed influence of the Necronomicon, which is on display at the Brown University library (in the comic, that is) to create a very interesting comic with solid writing. The art needs a lot of work, but I suppose it’s too late for that.
We begin with a prologue as the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, begins work on his book of the dead in a fit of jealousy that his own poetry doesn’t match up to that of his contemporaries. He writes a book that aims to bridge the gaps between our world and the existence of impossible creatures. Of course, he pays for it with his life and dies horribly, as if to forecast the events that would dog H.P. Lovecraft in his own life. It segues to a day in the life of Lovecraft after establishing that pulp publishers didn’t particularly like him because his writing was complex, obscure and lacked tits. But Lovecraft himself is portrayed as a functionally awkward guy dealing with crippling feelings of inadequacy, writer’s block and a desire to write that pays the bills. Before he is mugged by a couple of sailors by the docks, he passes the Necronomicon in the Brown library, which has a strange momentary influence over him. An influence that he later uses to write a story that involves a creature from the deep emerging to slaughter the inhabitants of a boat only to have it actually happen as his muggers and a pair of prostitutes are torn limb from limb on their vessel.
It would be easy to drench this book in stereotypes of the roaring 20’s, with women in short skirts smoking and blabbing away in obscure jive on every panel, but writer Mac Carter has a very even handed approach and lays the foundation for further storytelling in a consistent and compelling manner. The book seems quite long for a monthly but never goes overboard and throws you some unnecessary action in order to hold your attention. He goes out of his way to prove to you that he knows what he’s talking about and it’s clear that what we’re going to see over the course of the next few issues are the dire consequences of Lovecraft writing The Call Of Cthulhu as though his cursed inner darkness was enough to evoke the tentacle creatures from the stars. Overall, this establishing book is what all first issues in a mini-series should be. Tony Salmons’ art, however, interrupts the entire process and I’m sure has struggling comic artists everywhere eating their own pages out of frustration. If that guy can get on an Image book, why not them? You know?
Salmons’ art is scribbly, with thick lines and obscure physical features on all characters. Lovecraft doesn’t really look like Lovecraft, though his mother’s doctor does. It’s clear that he’s trying to emulate a certain aesthetic of the period, maybe a loose liberation that speaks of the cultural tone of the 20’s or the illustrations of an actual pulp but it doesn’t really work. It just looks sloppy. The net result is me simply reading the words in the balloons and barely exploring the visual aspect. The dialog, however, is strong enough to float this book and where inner monologue has floated out of fashion in comic circles it is indispensible and used to absolute perfection here in the context of a man who lived, primarily, in the darkest corners of his mind. I only wonder if they’ll somehow approach Lovecraft’s greatest flaw in this book. That being his intense racism. In many ways, the book plays out like a Lovecraft short or a Stephen King short, which may be Lovecraft’s influence feeding back into the book. It’s a great read but it’s up to you if the astonishingly high cover price of five god damn dollars is worth it.