"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by SelfMadeHero
Written by H.P. Lovecraft / I.N.J. Culbard
Illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard
2014, 144 pages
Graphic Novel released on November 18th, 2014
I refused to read graphic adaptations of Lovecraft's work for a very long time. The nature of Lovecraft's work mixes some of the worst images and vistas in the history of cosmic horror with a style that refuses to give everything away and instead hints at things and forces the readers' brains to fully engage with the text and come up with the terrifying visuals of that which hides beyond the veil. Despite my resolve, I was unable to resist the temptation any longer and decided to check out some of the graphic adaptations out there. I.N.J. Culbard's adaptation of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath took everything I feared about Lovecraftian graphic fiction and turned it on its head. Culbard takes the original story, sprinkles in a few touches from other stories that will not be lost on mythos fans, and echoes Lovecraft's style in that he shows a lot but never shows everything. In other words, this is visual HPL the way it should be done.
Randolph Carter dreamed of a marvelous city three times. The dreams were incredibly vivid and the place he saw in his nighttime visions made him want to be there more than anything else in the world. Unfortunately, he was pulled out of each dream and back into the realm of the real on every occasion. Then the dreams stopped. The frustration he felt at not being able to remain in a place where he felt he belonged forced him to pray to the gods of dreams, but they ignored his prayers. Undaunted, Carter decides to embark on a perilous journey through the realm of dreams, that world beyond the wall of sleep where mysterious cities can be found, the bizarre is commonplace, and where enigmatic creatures abound. Carter goes looking for Kadath, a place where gods live. If he succeeds in his quest, he has a chance at going back, and staying, in the place of his dreams. Unfortunately, no one knows how to get to Kadath and simply finding out how to get there is a dangerous undertaking, but none of that will stop him from trying to get back to the place where he feels he belongs.
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To be fully enjoyed, this graphic novels requires familiarity with the Lovecraftian mythos. For example, the narrative is even better if the reader knows the power and significance the cats of Ulthar hold. However, it could also serve as a great introduction into the work of HPL for those not yet initiated. From the tension to the horrors that lie beyond the stars, everything that makes Lovecraft's work so enjoyable can be found here in spades. Also, as mentioned above, Culbard shows a lot, but doesn't show what matters, and that mimics HPL's style perfectly. There are plenty of creatures and places shown here, but there are also plenty of locations of entities that are only hinted at or spoken about in vague terms, which drenches the book with an unshakable enigmatic atmosphere.
Besides the story itself, the art here is superb. From the detailed faces and rich backgrounds to the plethora of ways in which Culbard splits and uses the page, everything about The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath speaks of hard work and attention to detail. Also, Culbard has a knack for color and shading, and the tones he uses shift regularly to match the narrative.
Whether you're a hardcore fan of all things Lovecraftian or just looking for a way to experience the power of the mythos for the first time, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is a beautifully rendered adaptation that takes readers to places where they will not want to return.
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