Back in 2009 I had the pleasure of reviewing a new Lovecraft-inspired graphic novel from author Bruce Brown and illustrator Renzo Podesta — Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. Somehow Brown and Podesta managed to approach the world of H.P. Lovecraft from the point of view of a child. The title was innocuous, and you couldn’t help but wonder what this little boy on the cover is doing with a tentacled creature from the depths of the Cthulhu mythos…
So when Brown asked me to take a look at the next chapter in young Howard Lovecraft’s adventures, I jumped at the opportunity. This time poor Howard faces the repercussions of what he unwittingly helped with in the first book. And, just like with the first book, the cover of Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom somehow merges the innocence of a child with creepy things from the dark places mankind really shouldn’t be shining a light into. Brown worked with illustrator Thomas Boatwright this time out, the artist who did the cover for Frozen Kingdom.
Again, Brown starts off with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” And poor Howard wakes up in a bizarre dream where his house is underwater in a realm of tentacled things and toothy fish… or is it a dream? Outside the house he sees his friend “Spot” (Thu Thu Hmong or the great Cthulhu himself that Howard saved from certain death in Frozen Kingdom), who warns that an old enemy has returned — King Abdul — and that Howard shouldn’t trust anyone. At that point Howard wakes up in his room and is told by his mother that it’s time to get up for school.
This time out, Howard’s father and a new friend, Constable Clyde Smith, help Howard along on his journey. He must travel to Yuggoth, the world where the evil King Abdul holds Howard’s family hostage in return for the book Howard holds in his possession — a book from his father about R’yleh and other places of fairy tale and nightmare. Can Howard, his father, and the good Constable save Howard’s family? Read on and find out!
Ultimately Boatwright’s style is a bit different than Podesta’s, but it still maintains that childlike innocence without feeling forced. So much of what the characters feel is captured in their facial expressions that it’s easy to get sucked into the story. I instantly felt a connection with this trio of heroes as they set off on their adventure with all these creepy critters hovering in the background. And the subtle transitions from panel to panel are enough to translate the many transformations Howard goes through as the journey continues. For example, one collection of panels features Howard falling into an ocean and developing the gills and fins of Lovecraft’s “Deep Ones” as described in his novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth. That transformation is hinted at earlier but only becomes complete when our hero needs it to be.
It’s those little touches that really make this series of graphic novels perfect for kids seeking to explore a bit of Lovecraftian horror. Frozen Kingdom and now Undersea Kingdom offer glimpses at the monsters and evil within the Cthulhu stories without scaring them off or scarring them for life. That can come later when they read stories like “The Dunwich Horror” and other novellas like At the Mountains of Madness!
Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom will be released at the end of February 2012. For a bit more about the graphic novel, check out its page at the publisher’s site.Powered by Sidelines