Sunday, April 24, 2011
Comic Review: Fall of Cthulhu
In the first volume, Fugue, Michael Alan Nelson tells the story of a young man thrown into a mad world by the suicide of his beloved uncle. Nelson interprets some aspects of Lovecraft’s mythos in ways I wouldn’t, especially when it comes to the Dreamlands. But the very nature of Lovecraft’s work invites these varied ways of understanding and interpreting.
The story certainly builds an atmosphere of grim horror. A lot is set up here, which I can only assume will become more clear and developed in later volumes. The art isn’t amazing, but it’s passable. I really don’t care for Andrew Ritchie’s work on the Dreamlands segments. It’s evocative, I guess, but almost abstract and very ugly.
This is probably not for the causal reader, either. Though not especially gory, it is quite disturbing and very dark. Suicide, homicide, and eventual deicide are all on the docket in this series.
In volume two, The Gathering, we start to see the various forces and interests that are coming together for the clash of gods. There isn’t really a single focal point character in this volume, unless maybe it’s Mr. Arkham’s right hand man, Connor.
The art is still a mixed bag, but overall, I found it more palatable in the second volume. I also really liked the introduction of the Masked Mute, and the imagery that accompanies her.
Volume three, The Gray Man, brings in a potentially interesting character in Lucifer, a wayward Brazilian girl with a heck of a lot more going on than one would expect. And strong jawed cop, Sheriff Dirk helps give the reader a more grounded, everyman view of the unfolding events.
The conflict becomes more defined in this volume, too, with the stakes more clearly delineated, and the players all on the board, except perhaps Cthulhu himself (though his agents are in the thick of things).
(Mild spoilers ahead) In Godwar, the fourth volume, all hell breaks loose and the war between the gods begins in earnest. The world starts its journey into madness, the ancient city rises from the depths, and everyone who’s anyone descends on its long hidden streets. If I have one major complaint about the art from this series, it’s that the first real view of R’lyeh is less than overwhelming. It looks like a simple Mediterranean village with a flooding problem. And those angles look pretty darned Euclidian to me.
The fifth volume, Apocalypse, brings the series to a dramatic conclusion, with lots of crazy stuff going on, and the obligatory revelations and twists. Who was really pulling the strings? Who had the upper hand? Who guessed one more move ahead on the chess board? I guess my problem with this finale is that when all is said and done, the actual ending becomes a bit too intimate. Though normally, I think one must keep stories on somewhat of an individual level, when it comes to the horrors of Lovecraft, especially when it comes to a war between the gods, it feels like the problems of a few people shouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, much less the tipping point of victory.
Still, the art here is the best and most consistent. And I guess the ending is somewhat satisfying. Like the whole series, it’s not the take on Lovecraft that I’d have done were it in my hands. But it wasn’t. And I did enjoy reading it. So, at the end of the day, that’s what is important to this reviewer.
Nemesis, the final volume tells the story of a side character (of sorts) who appeared in the first couple volumes. It goes back in time to the final days of Atlantis, showing some of the events chronicled in the previous volumes being set in motion. The story feels more like a Robert E. Howard tale than Lovecraft (not to say they’re totally unrelated), but it’s not bad. Unfortunately, the art by Todd Herman is only so-so, and by the end appears either rushed or lazy.
Of the Lovecraft inspired comics I’ve read so far, this series is among the better, and thanks to having a single writer, most consistent in terms of story and character. Though the art is not, ranging from kind of crappy to pretty good. It’s worth reading, and I’m hoping it will lead to more, hopefully better comics dealing with the Mythos in the future. Perhaps something involving alien conspiracies and the Mi-go? One can hope.
Fall of Cthulhu: The Fugue, The Gathering, The Gray Man, Godwar, Apocalypse, and Nemesis
Author: Michael Alan Nelson
Publisher: Boom! Studios
ISBN: 978-1-934506-19-6, 978-1-934506-49-3, 978-1-934506-50-9, 978-1-934506-57-8, and 978-1-934506-93-6