Howard Lovecraft & The Undersea Kingdom: Comic Book Review!

Howard Lovecraft & The Undersea Kingdom

Words/Story: Dwight L MacPherson & Bruce Brown
Art: Thomas Boatwright

PREVIOUSLY: Howard and “Spot” banished King Abdul to the Homeworld. But King Abdul has found an ally.

The best way to start with this review is to note that I’m not, per se, a fan of Howard Lovecraft. Or, in a better phrasing, note that it’s less I’m not a fan and more I’m not terribly well-versed in his particular works. So I’m approaching this as someone who knows minimal about the subject and is simply reacting to the piece at hand.

And yet despite that, or maybe because of it, I love this graphic novel.

It’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Colourful and evocative and imaginative to the utmost degree. Something that resonates with love for the material from the first piece of art to the last choice of words. It also happens to be something relentlessly entertaining.

The danger for a piece like this is not allowing people with an ‘in’ on the originals to gain an understanding and connection to the piece. While Sherlock was updated for the present day, Dwight and Bruce have sought to keep this in the past… but not let the past be used as an excuse to be slow and deliberate.

Instead, this moves like a freight train.

Characters get room to breathe, but never at the expense of the piece being exhilarating. The art matches this at all times, being incredibly iconic in the visuals depicted, while retaining a quaint quality when it came to the characters. They look alive without being ultra stylish, so they all fit into the same tonal format.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to “Spot” and Howard. One problem with films, and comics, is that the fantastical doesn’t mesh brilliantly with the normal. Here, it does. You believe that Howard and “Spot” and King Abdul can exist in the same universe. There’s no moment where your disbelief is suspended, because it always just feels right.

Special merit must go to the perfect meshing of writing and art when it comes to the characters. Often times secondary characters in these kinds of pieces can feel a tad redundant, falling back on clichés and tropes. It’s not always bad to be rooted in a stock character, it’s just always refreshing when some additional thought is put in. Here, everyone shines.

I particularly enjoyed “Smithie” and Beastie, the cat. While they aren’t the lead characters, they never feel like mere supporting roles. Both provide fantastic comic-relief with a good mix of funny moments and crowning moments of awesome. Yet at the same time, there’s a subtle and slightly haunted quality to “Smithie.” Never overplayed, but visible within the corners of the panels. The same is true of Howard’s father, who’s mental deterioration alternates between amusing and tragic. The last Indiana Jones, much as I enjoyed it, played a similar character for laughs and fell slightly because of that. Dwight and Bruce are better writers than that, making Howard’s reactions to his father’s condition a slight tearjerker.

Any criticisms?

Well, I’m not a fan of the ending. I won’t spoil it, and I know this is an ongoing franchise (which is great, as I get to read more), but the graphic novel concept, to me, should be rooted in telling specific standalone stories. You can base them over a greater period, but there should be a definitive end to this tale, rather than a tease at the next one.

That, and it ends. When you’re having fun with a graphic novel, it frustrates when it ends, period.

But that said, it’s a great read and a wonderful story for all ages. Nowadays you get people saying that a lot. Often times it isn’t true. And yet here, it is. Wonderfully elegant in both the construction and writing.

Grade: A

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