I miss out on every Latest Thing. It’s a habit I’m happy to nurture, as it helps me keep my wits when the hype and the balloons and the dancing girls and the free crock pot give-aways destroy all reason in fans and they end up actually claiming to like crap like TWILIGHT, BATTLEGROUND EARTH and EVENT HORIZON. No, it wasn’t, it SUCKED.
According to the back cover, this collects the opening arc in the comic book sensation that took the comic book world by storm in 2007-2008. And I missed it! This isn’t a comic book adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft stories, but a series influenced by and using some of H.P.L.’s concepts, such as the squid-faced dude and the ancient city under the waves. I ain’t looking up the spelling for every word I type, I’ve got a book I’m trying to finish. I’ll be commenting on some other Lovecraft comic material later in the month, but I’m starting with this interesting little appetizer.
It opens with a little mood-setting, with talk of primordial stone and the world being plunged into despair by R’yleh, the conniving, oozing schemer.
We then see a few happy moments in the life of the writer of the Necronomicon, a scribe we shall call “Al” because I’m not checking the spelling repeatedly. After a shaky opening I found this part interesting. Any reader of HPL knows the name but Al doesn’t end up in many adventures. This promises good things, this section.
The bulk of the narrative isn’t what it could be. Cy and his girlfriend Jordan are a couple, and Cy’s uncle has been poking around into Ye Olde Ones. He shows up while the happy couple are being happy, the uncle, and promptly blows his brains out. Cy’s investigation into his uncle’s work drives the plot…which takes a long time getting underway. Uncle was involved in the coming of Thou Crusty Crustaceaonous Slithery Gods, which is inevitable. Cy’s girlfriend stands around being annoyed because keeps leaving the Evil Jewel-Encrusted Blade on the kitchen table and the dishes piled up in the sink. I was kind of surprised that the lead woman was such a dull cliche.
Once Cy checks out Uncle’s digs, things start to pick up.
My anti-comic book prejudice fell away when I realized what a good intro to Lovecraft for contemporary readers. Lovecraft is hard to take full-strength. Of course some of us are entranced right away, but his style was baroque and purple when it was new, so almost a century’s reading habits later, it’s tough to take for newbies.
Kids today do not watch black and white movies, so reading something from decades ago is a challenge. If the comic form can help a reader dip yon toe into the primordial ooze, that’s a good thing.
The art is sometimes dull, sometimes inspired. The Al sequences are dust-clogged and dark.
The contemporary parts of the story are less impressive, but have their moments.
Jean Dzialowski is responsible for most of the art, which is okay in the main but inspired in the Al sequences. The creepiest work comes from Andrew Ritchie, who did the dream sequences. As was the case with the art direction of ALIEN, bringing in a different artist for the more ‘out-there’ material creates a collision of styles we’d expect when leaping from one world to the next.
If you’re a Lovecraft fan, it’s safe to skip THE FUGUE. All Lovecraft sequels or tributes are rooted in our contemporary world, and the introduction of Lovecraftian elements bang into that ‘normal’ world. But Lovecraft was twisted, and his stories were twisted–the ‘normal world’ is nodded at, but HPL’s Lovecraftiness pervades every putrid, rotting sentence. He wasn’t normal, and those who try to jump on his bandwagon are. (Or their abnormality isn’t his; Thomas Ligotti, for example).
If you or someone you know is curious about Lovecraft, this is a good place to start, maybe even better than a hit of the real stuff right off (though that’s preferable). I’m thinking of those danged young ‘uns again, and their color T.V. and disco music–Lovecraft and the other Weird Tales folks might just be too tough for them. So give ’em this. It’s a little too much like Neil Gaiman for me, but that might just be because I’ve read almost nothing in comic book form but a little Neil Gaiman in decades.
And the dream sequences are good.