“The Lovecraft Anthology” is interesting, but perhaps not the best way to introduce new readers to the world of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft.
I’ve not read any Lovecraft directly, but any geek worth his stripes at least knows his name and his most enduring creation, Cthulhu. The elder god/alien long banished from Earth but with an eye and tentacle keen on returning has been referenced and parodied by countless others since Lovecraft started writing in the early 20th century. A notable recent favorite is the “Atomic Robo” comic. And I’ve played Arkham Horror, a cool game based on the Cthulhu mythos.
So, not being steeped in Lovecraft’s works, I let out a little, “Ooh, cool,” when “The Lovecraft Anthology” (vol. 1) graphic novel arrived in the mail from SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams Books. It’s set to be released this month.
Edited by Dan Lockwood, who also penned a few of the adaptations (with a variety of artists), the anthology collects several Lovecraft short stories concentrating on Cthulhu, with plenty of references to the dead city R’lyeh, the Necronomicon and another god, Yog-Sothoth, plus various cults and whatnot.
Unfortunately, in “The Lovecraft Anthology,” Lovecraft’s concepts come across as much more interesting than his actual writing. Now, writing from the early 20th century can often be rather dry, so I’m not necessarily pinning the blame on Lockwood and his other authors. It may very well be just the source material.
The artists mostly do a fine job of lending appropriate moodiness and scale to the works, which include “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Dunwich Horror” (my favorite) and “The Rats in the Walls.” Their work is grisly without being gratuitous, and there’s a neat nod to M.C. Escher, whose work (he and Lovecraft were contemporaries, though I don’t know if they ever even met) seems appropriate R’lyeh. But the writing just isn’t there.
Many of the stories don’t follow traditional ideas of plot with beginning, middle and end, and instead read more like random diary entries of various people, observers or active participants, some more interesting than others. It’s a valid literary device, for sure, but gets a bit dull. Even taken as a whole, it doesn’t quite live up to the potential of its parts.
But Lovecraft wouldn’t have such an enduring hold on the horror/fantasy genre if there weren’t some real meat to those bones. And that’s why I still enjoyed the book. It’s those concepts I mentioned before. They’re just so cool. And well worth delving into.
It didn’t make me want to run out and read the Lovecraft originals, but it is enough to get me to pick up volume 2.