As an architect of a genre once dubbed “weird fiction,” the creative engineer Howard Phillips Lovecraft envisioned a vast bestiary of creatures still highly regarded in pop culture and lore today. But the monster fabled as the Cthulhu earned its place as one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most notable and infamous fictional designs. In a new graphic novel from Arcana’s line comes Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, an all-ages book that weaves the mythos from the very beginning—spotlighting Howard Lovecraft as a child swept up by a magical world beyond imagination.
Those with scraps of knowledge concerning Lovecraft’s life probably know about his father’s psychotic woes. Thus, writer Bruce Brown sets the stage for the comic (out this January 6). Howard’s visit to the Butler Sanitarium in the late 19th-century proffers a illgotten mystery as his father warns about a book with cursed secrets. Too curious to toss aside his mother’s Christmas gift of a book handed down from father to son, Howard finds himself quite literally sucked into the world of Winfield Lovecraft’s cobwebbed construction. A frozen wasteland awaits, and the young boy just barely manages to scrape by unhindered. The monster that nearly gobbles him whole? Thu Thu Hmong—by the looks of it, the legendary Cthulhu. But Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is a book of origins in more ways than one, and the adventure doesn’t truly spark until the last page, which hints at the young Lovecraft’s future. In between, however, the reader can delight in a story that pits Howard in a life-threatening situation: To save a wintry, enchanted kingdom with a child ruler and his fellow inhabitants, Howard and his new pet, “Spot” (aka Thu Thu Hmong), are tasked with venturing into the depths of a cave home to a terrible monster known as the Jinn. Only the retrieval of a book that dwells within those confines can restore the desolate kingdom to its prior glory.
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of the book lies with Renzo Podesta’s bewildering artwork. The color palate simply fascinates, the art itself blending detailed pencil and straightforward line work that give way to a culmination reminiscent just as much of a children’s book as it is of sketches in an ancient manuscript. The story holds a trick up its sleeve, but there are no real surprises or mind-bending plots lurking beneath its pages. The plain storytelling fits for an all-ages book, but there’s not enough genuine charm in the dialogue to sincerely impress. Plus, Brown’s story falls apart with the final chapter, which turns rushed and confusing by its end, leaving the reader demanding more in all the wrong ways. The so-called “the rest is history” type conclusion reads dryly, as numerous threads of potential are left dangling and abandoned. For a story that couldn’t possibly be misconstrued unless you were reading the pages upside-down, there’s something massively wrong with that concept.