Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom by Bruce Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Bruce Brown's Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom has a long reach, but stops just sort of grasping its potential. Renzo Podesta's artwork is beautiful, simultaneously cute and sinister, somewhere between Winsor McCay and Brom with a smidge of Ben Templesmith thrown in. In other words, the art was fabulous. I've got to hunt down more of Renzo Podesta's work.
The story itself, however, leaves a lot to be desired. In brief, Howard Lovecraft is given a mystic book by his institutionalized father which, the crazed parent says, young Howard must destroy. Of course, being a disobedient and very curious child, he does not. Eldritchery ensues. Tentacles happen. Deception. Friendship is tested. Then an ending.
I review the book in such a choppy way in order to illustrate the beginning of my problems with Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. Graphic novels run the risk, because of the media itself, of being too "sudden". By this I mean that certain plot elements seem either too foreshortened or they feel like infodumps disguised as a small panel within the comic. When repeated, this sly form of Deus ex Machina gets tedious, and that's what happened here. The book could stand being another 5 pages or so long, allowing for a more careful, more soothing transition to and from important bits (or, sometimes, chunks) of information. As it is, however, a couple of key elements feel like they've been wedged in after the fact, making one doubt that the author genuinely understood his own story. It's fine to put things in after you've drafted, but please knead them in, don't let them stick out.
Finally, the author has claimed that this is an all-ages introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos. I can appreciate the desire to introduce a new generation to Lovecraft's work, but I sometimes felt that the work went too far in the "cute" direction. Again, some of these cute episodes stuck out from the rest of the story like spinach caught in a lingerie model's teeth.
Still, I recommend the book. Read it once, don't take it too seriously, and don't worry about the story again. But do take in the artwork again. There is some real quality work here. Drink it in! Oh, and, important safety tip: Never trust a child who can properly pronounce "R'yleh". Just don't.
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