Summary: A graphic anthology of tales featuring collaborations between established writers and artists and debut contributors, The Lovecraft Anthology showcases Lovecraft’s talent for the macabre. From the insidious mutations of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” to the mindbending threat of “The Call of Cthulhu,” this collection explores themes of insanity, inherited guilt, and arcane ritual to startling effect.
The Lovecraft Anthology, vol. 1, by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted by various authors and artists 7.25
I can’t say that I’ve ever felt drawn to H.P. Lovecraft. While I do enjoy horror to some degree, every time I was exposed to something Lovecraftian, it was mostly about creepy critters and creatures. And, frankly, nasty beasts, monsters and mutations simply don’t grab me.
Though they may try.
But a friend of mine who’s a pretty big Lovecraft fan, yet ironically doesn’t like to watch traditional horror films, suggested that I read some of his works. Given my tight schedule, I was more naturally drawn to a graphic novel adaptation of some of his short stories.
Why the hell not?
1. The first story is “The Call of Cthulu“. Upon the death of his great-uncle, who left him a bunch of cryptic documents, a man investigates a series of incidents involving a strange religious artifact: a statue of a creature unknown to modern society. He starts to make connection between it and his uncle’s death, as well as the madness of many other men. It’s a creepy story, because it suggests that there are sinister, otherworldly forces at work that we are not aware of, and that they can come for us anytime. Eek. The art and the storytelling on this one are top-notch, perfectly complementing the genre. 7.5
2. “The Haunter of the Dark” tells the story of Blake, who went to Providence to investigate a Church that is rumoured to have some sort of connection with evil. Naturally, the locals are not helpful in finding the place and some even warn him against visiting it, but he does anyway. What he finds there infects his mind, and he slowly unravels, facing monstrosities untold. What gives the story a feeling of foreboding is the opening, which immediately tells us that Blake’s fate is going to be mysterious… and unpleasant. The artwork has a nice style, but it doesn’t always work. For instance, the ending was unclear. 7.0
3. “The Dunwich Horror” introduces us to the Whatelys, a family of farmers on the outskirts of Dunwich, a village whose citizens have degenerated to such a degree that there’s little hope for them. But the Whatelys scare even these miserable wretches, with rumours of witchcraft, murder and something sinister brewing on their farm. That’s when our narrator, Professor Armitage, comes to visit, after corresponding with Wilbur Whately about his research into profane texts. What he finds is not quite human, along with an evil to chill the bone. The art is serviceable, but the story is captivating enough. 7.0
4. In “The Colour Out of Space“, after a meteorite lands near Arkham, the water supply is polluted with an evil that infects everyone and everything within reach. Although degradation is mercifully slow, that’s also possibly the worst part: the victims become sickly, demented and gradually mutate into something other than human. This one creeped me out because of the growing freakishness in Arkham, like a disease you can’t control and that you feel in your bones actually has the will to destroy us. Brrr… This inspired a movie called ‘The Curse’ which somehow made me so uneasy that I refuse to ever watch it again. 7.5
5. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” tells of a man who is on his way to Arkham for a genealogical study when he hears of the town of Innsmouth, rumoured to have driven men insane. Curious, he decides to take the long way to Arkham, through Innsmouth, to visit. Once there, he is pointed in the direction of a drunk who spins him quite the tall tale about an evil taking over the town when he was a wee boy. Though he’d been warned not to stay the night, our protagonist is forced get a hotel room when his bus breaks down. He discovers that evil -amongst other, even more disturbing things- never sleeps.
Frankly, I didn’t much like this one. The language that the drunkard used was nearly incomprehensible. I don’t know if Lovecraft had written it that way, or if the Laura Moore and John Rappion botched an attempt at giving him a thick accent, but it was headache-inducing to try to decrypt his recollections and warnings. So, by the time of the dénouement, I was not just wholly detached, I really wasn’t sure what the punch was. Again, this could be Lovecraft’s doing, but, either way, I have to give this short story a failing grade. Someone with better language skills might be able to muddle their way through and enjoy this.
Not I. 4.0
6. In “The Rats in the Walls“, one finds an older man who moves back into his family’s long-lost ancestral home after his son rediscovers it – despite a grim reputation that has kept the locals skittish for generations. Soon the old man notices a change in their cats’ behaviour and he begins to hear persistent scratching, which he assumes are rats. But no one ever sees them. So he rounds up a team to investigate the house and, in its bowels, they find the remains of an evil that surpasses all imagination – and sanity’s threshold. The art was perfect for this one and I liked the “The Tell-Tale Heart” aspect of it. 7.5
7. In “Dagon“, a sailor escapes an attack on his vessel only to find himself marooned near a mysterious island. Suffering from nightmares at night and exploring an alien landscape by day, he discovers an underwater creature so terrifying that he blanked out and woke up in a bed, having been rescued by another ship. Though no one has seen anything that he’d seen, he becomes filled with terror of the day the world will be overrun by such creatures. And thus he turns to morphine to kill the dread. The story is okay, but it felt hurried, as though it was adapted into more of a teaser than a full story. Still, the art was terrific. 6.75
What I find interesting about these stories is that mostly revolve around madness or at the very least an altered sense of perception. Are these people mad at the onset, or are they driven to insanity by their inability to contemplate the evil that they encounter? It’s not entirely clear.
But it’s disturbing. The notion of losing control of one’s body is terrifying, but no longer gripping hold of reality is even more chilling. What I don’t like is Lovecraft’s focus on beings of pure evil or from alternate dimensions, because it takes us into a world of fantasy, not reality.
And that’s less scary to me.
Still, all told, I kind of enjoyed this first volume of ‘The Lovecraft Anthology’. It’s not all stellar, but it’s a good primer into the themes that H.P. Lovecraft explored. I don’t know that I’m a convert, but I’m intrigued; I have no doubt that I will seek out another volume.
I just hope my sanity can survive the terror buried in its pages.