Graphic Novel Review: Lovecraft by INJ Culbard


Lovecraft - Credit: Archant


Dark, slithering horrors lurking in impossible cities dating back into the mists of pre-history, forbidden tomes hidden on the cobwebbed shelves of Miskatonic University, resurrected necromancers engaged in horrific rituals, foolhardy expeditions to uncharted regions of the Earth…

All of HP Lovecraft’s familiar tropes appear in the pages of this bumper volume of graphic novel adaptations, presented with a fantastic blending of realism and the bizarre by award-winning artist INJ Culbard.

Included here are four tales: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath reveals Randolph Carter’s search through dreamscapes for a majestic sunset city; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a chilling account of the events leading to the escape of a dangerous inmate from a Rhode Island asylum; At The Mountains Of Madness reveals the shocking secrets of a lost civilisation deep within Antarctica; and The Shadow Out of Time explores why a university professor lost five years of his life to another personality.

This quartet of Lovecraft classics serve as a perfect introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos, his shared universe of ancient powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth, and his own cosmic attitude, namely that we live in a purposeless, mechanical and uncaring universe.

A decidedly old-fashioned writer even in the early 1900s, with an unnecessary tendency towards exposition, Lovecraft’s work has been described as verbose, dense and over-complicated, and can leave the reader feeling suffocated by his over-use of adjectives.

Wielding his editor’s scalpel with skill, Culbard strips away much of the author’s clunky and cumbersome prose to focus on his gift for engaging narrative, while also bringing in some much-needed dialogue, something often absent from Lovecraft’s books.

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He maintains the mood and atmosphere through a limited colour palette, heavy use of shadow, and by only hinting at some of the unspeakable horrors which are lurking in these pages, while also keeping that sense of humanity’s insignificance against far older, far more intelligent creatures from times and places beyond our comprehension.

With a cinematic quality to his ligne claire drawings (as made famous by Hergé’s Tintin), Culbard stays true to the spirit of these stories while also putting his own stamp on them, and ensures the overall experience is one to be savoured.