"Dagon" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by 44FLOOD
Written by H.P. Lovecraft
Illustrated by Ben Templesmith
2015, 72 Pages
Here's something I probably shouldn't admit as I write for a horror website: I've never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft. I've read a ton of stuff inspired by the man's work, but nothing that was personally written by him. That's part of the reason I jumped at Ben Templesmith's Kickstarter campaign for his adaptation of the short story Dagon. What better way to dip my toe into the tentacle-filled waters of Lovecraft's work than with this? Templesmith kept all of the prose intact, complementing it with stunning imagery.
Dagon tells the story of a man shipwrecked on a mysterious island. He doesn't remember how he got to land. He starts to explore and begins to have maddening visions of horrific creatures. Finally, he stumbles upon a strange, intricately-carved obelisk and something ancient and terrifying from the deep rises up to push him over the edge.
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After just a few pages, I can see why Lovecraft is such an influential writer. There's a fantastic pace to the story and a sense of dread that flows through each line of text. You know that this man's sanity is short lived. The very first line reads, “I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain since by tonight I shall be no more.” That sets the stage for the book and you get to see what drives this man to such extremes.
Templesmith's artwork is perfect for this. Those opening pages are suitably dark and dreary. There is a brief glimmer of hope just after the main character escapes from captivity aboard a lifeboat. Templesmith draws a gorgeous sunset on the water with the boat a tiny speck in the expanse of the sea. The sky looks like it's on fire with hues of red...then you turn the page.
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The page turn is used so damn effectively here. Immediately after that beautiful image is one of abject terror. It's filled with gnashing teeth and tentacles, hovering over a pair of strained eyes. This is what madness looks like and it's only the beginning. Templesmith gives you a few moments to catch your breath before diving deeper into the abyss. Those tentacles get closer and closer. The monsters they're connected to begin to come into focus. You can see why the creatures in Lovecraft's stories drive people crazy.
As with Templesmith's previous Kickstarter created graphic novel, The Squidder, Dagon is a beautiful book. It's a deluxe oversized hardcover, which dwarfs the standard comics you see on shelves today. The paper stock is high quality and the images are crisp and clear. The fact that it's so large lets you really check out every little detail. The back of the graphic novel contains some behind-the-scenes process shots of select pages as well as a pin-up gallery of Dagon-inspired images by a number of different artists. Dagon is a collector's graphic novel. It's something any horror fan would be proud to have on his or her shelf. You'd take it down to show off to friends.
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H.P. Lovecraft and Ben Templesmith are a match made in heaven...or deep below the seas. If you've ever wondered what those insanity-inducing monsters looked like, you'll get an up close and personal look at them here. It's easy to see why they drove anyone that saw them mad. These are creatures of darkness and nightmares, of your greatest fears and most disturbing thoughts. Forget Jaws. I'm never going into the water again after reading Dagon.