"Lovecraft Omnibus Edition" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by SelfMadeHero
Original Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Adapted and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard
2018, 524 Pages
Graphic novel released on October 30th, 2018
I have a confession to make: I have never read an original story by H.P. Lovecraft. That might be seen as heresy by some, especially since I write for a horror website. I have however read a ridiculous amount of comics inspired by his work. Plus, I own an adorable plush Cthulhu. In any case, there's clearly a reason that his stories have stood the test of time and helped so many horror creators make spooky stories years after his death. I.N.J. Culbard is one such creator, adapting a number of Lovecraft's stories over the years. SelfMadeHero has collected four of these tales in a new omnibus edition.
This massive 500+ page tome collects The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, At the Mountains of Madness, and The Shadows Out of Time, all adapted and illustrated by Culbard. Each is given a brief introduction before you dive into the chaos.
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Culbard's artwork is a perfect fit for Lovecraft's work, creating an uneasy feeling that never goes away. Something always feels a little off kilter, like you're standing on a precipice ready to plunge into the abyss. Culbard's page layouts are varied and intricate. Sometimes they break up into numerous smaller panels, each focusing on a different eerie detail. Other times there are full page spreads with gorgeous landscapes and robust imagery.
Where I ran into trouble with this collection was with the stories themselves. They are long, dry, and very laborious to read. These might flow better in prose, but in the comic book medium, where we can show instead of just telling, they tend to drag on and on.
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The first story, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, is a good example of this. It flows like a video game with the main character, Randolph Carter, going through a quest to reach a mysterious land in the dream state. Along the way he talks to nearly every single person he comes across and each NPC drops some weird knowledge that helps to guide him along the way. All of this information doesn't feel relevant. It's like he's doing every side quest that pops up instead of just focusing on the main story. I'm a little surprised he didn't have to run an errand for a shopkeeper or something.
After reading through this collection, I'm wondering if OG Lovecraft just isn't for me. I can appreciate his contributions to the horror genre, especially the countless creators he's inspired, however his regular work has been rather dry and cumbersome based on what I've been exposed to so far. Maybe I just haven't found the right story yet and I'm more than willing to try. For now, Culbard's work, while beautifully illustrated, doesn't quite sell me on Lovecraft's work.