"Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Arcana Studio
Written by Bruce Brown
Illustrated by Thomas Boatwright
2013, 84 Pages
Graphic Novel released on November 20th, 2013
The adventures of young Howard Lovecraft continue in the latest graphic novel, The Kingdom of Madness. This time around, Howard is joined by his ever loyal pet Cthulu (aka Spot) and Constable Smith as they travel to the Antarctic in an effort to cure the boy's father from the insanity that plagues him. There's a special doctor way down south that can treat the man, but it's a perilous journey down there in a shaky plane. Plus there's something evil lurking beneath the ice.
This is the third graphic novel from author Bruce Brown detailing the exploits of Howard Lovecraft as a child. (Previous comics include the Frozen Kingdom and the Undersea Kingdom.) I highly recommend reading the first two before diving into Kingdom of Madness, both because they're great and this one doesn't spend any time filling you in on the backstory. It dives right into the action.
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While the first two graphic novels were definitely for all ages, this one cuts it a little close. It's still rated G, but there's a scene where Howard and Smith find a bunch of dismembered limbs in the snow. It's a hilarious scene, but I'm not sure how kid-friendly it is. The rest of the book is totally fine for your horror-loving child. It shows this young boy doing whatever it takes to help his father whom he loves dearly. He's doing it with the help of a giant squid monster.
Howard seems to be the only sane one in the bunch. He's the straight man in a group of clowns. Spot is like an eager dog except he's huge and has tentacles coming out of his face. Constable Smith is an old man longing for his glory days of the war but definitely somewhat unhinged from reality. Howard's father is just plain crazy. The team also meets up with Dr. Hank West, who is obsessed with collecting samples of nearly everything he comes across. You can imagine what happens when they find the aforementioned arms and legs.
Thomas Boatwright returns to illustrate the Kingdom of Madness, having previously handled the Undersea Kingdom. He has a great style that works well with Brown's story. It has a slight cartoonish quality that can put the reader at ease but can then slowly turn up the terror when something strange happens. He does a particularly good job with the title character. Howard is always very serious. In nearly every panel, he's shown with a look of wide-eyed intent with a glimmer of concern, as if he's realized that everything that he's witnessing makes little to no sense. I guess you can see why his father went insane.
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The creature that attacks the gang in the snow lacks any real form. A large squiggle that bursts out of the ground to eat them alive. It's almost as if Boatwright were to provide any more detail, he could send the reader into the same type of madness that plagues Mr. Lovecraft. The real treat in terms of the artwork comes from the evil penguins. Towards the end of the book, a bunch of big penguins waddle towards the group looking adorable, only to start ferociously attacking them. They're huge and deformed and definitely not something that would be narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness is a fun addition to the series. As with the previous volumes, I wish there was more. As it stands, this is a pretty quick read and the action comes very fast. Young Howard is clearly not through with his adventures, so I look forward to what he gets into next.