Ain’t It Cool News Howard Lovecraft Review

A while back there was a conversation in the TBs about the tendency to cast Lovecraft into his own mythos in comics and films. It’s a fun enough concept, but one that may not give Lovecraft the credit he deserves for coming up with such an amazing mythology. It’s as if folks can’t believe that such an expansive universe can be created by one writer. But it did happen that way. Still, that won’t stop writers like Bruce Brown from coming up with a pretty top notch story. I can’t deny how cool this story is, casting Lovecraft as a child who is transported to a frozen land and meeting all of his mythical creations like Dragon and Cthulhu. There are many Lovecraft comics out there right now, but this one is a little different, geared toward a younger audience and telling a macabre story through a child’s eyes. Fun stuff, made more so with art by Renzo Podesta. If you’re into all things Lovecraft, this is a book you can’t miss AND here is a full review from Aint it CoolThe downside of being an H.P. Lovecraft junkie is that after awhile, the majority of Lovecraftian fiction (whether prose, film, or in graphic form) tends to blend together into a vaguely noxious stew of moldy old books, gibbering monsters just outside the human mind’s ability to comprehend, and tentacles, tentacles, tentacles. Sometimes—mostly after reading some half-hearted pastiche that manages to include every hoary cliché, right down to the chant of “Cthulhu f’tagn”—I think that the only reason I keep on sloughing through the genre is to find those rare gems of work in which some new twist has been added to the Lovecraft Mythos. With HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE FROZEN KINGDOM, Bruce Brown and Renzo Podesta have given the Old Gent a spin that I never in a million years would have thought would work: HPL and Cthulhu as a Boy and his Dog. The end result is not entirely successful, but there are still some good things going on here.

For the first sixteen or so pages, the story is a pretty much by-the-books blend of horror and suspense, as a young Howard Philip Lovecraft visits his father in a lunatic asylum and is admonished to destroy a certain evil book that his father wrote. Naturally, upon returning home that night young Howard proceeds to read the forbidden book (disregarding dire warnings in the best Lovecraftian fashion) and is transported to the Frozen Kingdom, where he is immediately set upon by a tentacled monstrosity that bears more than a passing resemblance to HPL’s infamous Elder God. Like I said, all very by-the-book. But here’s where the comic strikes out for new ground.

The tentacled creature does not kill Howard, but rather has its life saved by the boy, thus becoming Howard Lovecraft’s servant/friend/pet (even to the point of Howard dubbing the creature “Spot”). From here on out, the book takes a much lighter tone as Howard and Spot continue their adventures in the Frozen Kingdom of R’yleh.

That’s right, the Kingdom is the same sunken city named in HPL’s “The Call of Cthulhu.” There are more Lovecraft references sprinkled throughout the comic: the boy king of R’yleh named Abdul, Dagon, even the way in which Howard is transported from his bed to the Frozen Kingdom brings to mind stories from Lovecraft’s “Dream Cycle” such as “Through the Gates of the Silver key.” But these references are more like seasoning to enhance the flavor of the story, and Brown neatly avoids the trap of going overboard with the spices.

Where this book falters slightly is in the uneven blend of humor and horror. There are certain aspects of both that shine; the dynamic between Howard and Spot is genuinely funny and warm, and the scenes of more traditionally Lovecraftian horrors are depicted well. But side-by-side, the two attitudes don’t quite gel. It’s tough to get that mix right without seriously overbalancing in one direction—offhand, the best successful example I can think of is Jeff Smith’s BONE—and while FROZEN KINGDOM never falls flat, this dichotomy of tone keeps the story from achieving its full potential.

This division is mirrored by Podesta’s artwork. His creatures are wonderfully drawn and crackle with energy, but his human figures are less effective. The cartoony style in which he draws Howard is especially frustrating in that the face changes drastically from panel to panel, sometimes looking well-drawn and “on-model,” but at other times looking not so much stylized as clumsy, and on a few panels even Muppet-like. When Spot and the other horrible creatures are rendered so well, I wish that Howard had been given the same care and attention.

Even with these shortcomings, FROZEN KINGDOM still gets a good grade from me based solely on the fact that it’s something different bobbing on the sea of Lovecraftian dreck that permeates the horror genre. If you’re a licensed Lovecraft lover like myself, this comic is definitely worth checking out.

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