Lovecraft… stylish, polished, yet sadly lacking the chills
Edited by Dan Lockwood
Jamie Delano, Steve Pugh, Chris lackey, Adrian Salmon, David Camus, Nicolas Fructus, Dwight L. MacPherson, Paul Peart-Smith, Chad Fifer, Bryan Baugh, Pat Mills, Attila Futaki, Benjamin Dickson, Mick McMahon, Simon Spurrier, Matt Timson, Dan Lockwood, Warwick Johnson Cadwell.
Cover by Francisco Francavilla.
It doesn’t really pick up too well in the picture above, but the first thing that jumps out at you about the book is four very clever small bits of spot varnish on the yellowy glowing eyes of the shambling corpses of Francavilla’s cover. Nice little touch, and if it catches you at the right moment, the tiny chill should set you up nicely for what’s to come.
I never got around to picking up the first Lovecraft Anthology volume, although I’d imagine it’s pretty much carrying on in the same macabre vein. I’m very much a Lovecraft novice, having mostly experienced his works through audio-books and plays. But some of those audio works really do a great job of establishing a real sense of mood, of impending doom, of a creeping dark threat encroaching upon the world. They had the space, the length, to really develop the dread fear slowly, really make the creeping horror work, really get that spinetingling feeling going. Sadly, that’s not something that really happened here.
This volume contains 9 short tales, all described on the back cover in terms of “eerie“, “nightmarish tales of terror“, “power to astound and unsettle“, and “weird fiction“. And whilst The Lovecraft Anthology II may be eerie, unsettling, weird fiction that chills, there’s no out and out creeping terror here, and I was left wanting a little more darkness to go alongside my reading of these enjoyable supernatural tales of the unexpected.
The adapters certainly give it their all though, with a host of artistic styles at work, all very skillful and attractive, no-one letting the side down at all. Similarly the writers do a fine job, keeping the suspense suspenseful and the mood suitably dark.
(Pickman’s Model by Jamie Delano and Steve Pugh)
Jamie Delano’s opener has some of the nicest, cleanest, polished art I’ve ever seen from Steve Pugh, but part of me wonders if his raw, scratchy style might have been better suited to the story of Pickman’s Model, where he appears to be channeling his inner John Bolton. We open with Lovecraft’s very own Picturet Of Dorian Gray, and venture into the madness of an artist channelling something from elsewhere onto his canvas. But as with much of the works here, the horror is unseen, and a little too low in the mix to evoke any real chills. Likewise The Temple by Chris Lackey and Adrian Salmon is more a tales of the unexpected than horror, but more than makes up for that with Salmon’s ultra-stylised, block coloured art for a tale of a cursed WWI German U-boat.
And it goes on like this, low on horror, high on mild chills, high on quality for a lot of the book.
He by Dwight L MacPherson and Paul Peart-Smith nearly gets the chills going, as does Fifer and Baugh’s The Hound. Even Pat Mills, master of the 6-pager in 2000AD seems content to deliver something creepy and spooky, a kind of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Cthulhu.
I’m not saying there’s not enjoyment in here, there certainly is. But it’s not the sort of enjoyment I was really looking forward to.
(From Beyond by David Camus and Nicolas Fructus)
And that isn’t to say there aren’t some chills along the way; From Beyond by David Camus and Nicolas Fructus finally delivered, three stories in, a little of the scare and creep I was after. Lovecraftian shapes wheel and float all over the art as we venture into madness once more and join an inventor claiming to be able to see into the ethereal realms.
Now, whether it’s the tone of the individual stories, or a cumulative effect of getting this far along, the brain attuned to the Lovecraft vibe, or more likely somewhere in between, the final three stories are by far the most affecting in the book; The Picture In The House by Benjamin Dickson and Mick McMahon delivers a panel early on that really sets the teeth on edge, leading to a bloody discovery, along with great McMahon art. Rounding out the book is another nicely creepy tale, although even this I don’t think would have worked so well early on; The Statement Of Randolph Carter by Dan Lockwood and Warwick Johnson Cadwell.
The best of the lot was the penultimate tale; The Festival by Simon Spurrier and Matt Timson that delivered a creeping horror in spades:
(The Festival by Simon Spurrier and Matt Timson)
So basically, I’ve spent a few hundred words telling you what I suspected at the start, that attempting Lovecraft in comic short form is a fool’s errand. Or at least it is for me.
I want something chilling, creepy, spinetingling. I want to put a book like this down and have to turn all the lights on in the house before going up to bed. But that takes time to develop properly, it cannot be rushed. And sadly it seems that it needs a lot more than the 10 to 15 pages of comic art for each story here to deliver that. Cumulatively it does some of what I was after, but I never felt that moment of dread I wanted.
Going up to bed in the dark was accomplished without fear and my dreams were sadly unperturbed. Polished, stylish, yet ultimately a little lacking in the essential Lovecraftian chills I wanted.