The Strange Adventures Of H.P. Lovecraft #1(of 4) - 'About A Writer And His Book' - Carter, Salmons & Byrne
Story - This was pretty damn good!, 7/10!
OK, you want more than that? This is actually very much my kind of story, I like period pieces, especially those that put supernatural or sci-fi or superhero conceits in exciting periods of US history, which is infinitely more glamorous than British History, I love it when we get a Cap story in WW2, or New Frontier, and Planetary's explorations of the 20th century. Actually, Planetary is my only real previous exposure to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, he showed up in the prestige format Planetary/Authority one-shot, as a racist nutjob, believing in 'Negro Eggs', I think Snow might have kicked him a bit, not sure. So I'm not a fan of Lovecraft, I know who Ctulhu is, but that's it, and this seems to be a good introduction to the man, and much more flattering than Ellis was!
We open in 783 AD, with a famous Egyptian (I think) Poet, begins pouring out his writings into service of the old ones, and is eventually ripped to pieces by mysterious tentacles, This was a strong prologue, as it served to show that this story is not just a biography, it is horror itself, and it was pretty effective in it's scare tactics, we never really see what happens to the poet, just various body parts 'kra-popping' away, it's pretty freaking.
After this, we have a time leap to rival the Battlestar Galactica finale, as we jump forward 12 centuries to the 1920s in Chicago, and a pulp magazine publisher arguing with his employee over whether Howard Lovecraft's stories are any good, this was probably my favourite scene in the book, very evocative of the time period, with busy, bustling backgrounds, and fast talking hucksters. Interesting that we're dealing with Pulps here, they seem to be having a bit of a resurgence of late, with Brubaker and Phillips' Incognito, and the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen dealing with pulp concepts, and now this, looking at the men behind them, it can't be long before we get a new Doc Savage or Shadow comic can it? Who knows? Oh yeah, the Shadow knows.
Anyway, I digress, this scene also serves an important story function, introducing H.P. Lovecraft to the reader, we learn he is a writer of pulp stories, in particular weird ones, and that they are seen to have higher literary value than most, but that is in conflict with the commercial nature of the pulps, it's very well done, and doesn't seem expositiony at all. After this, we finally see Lovecraft, lying in bed, late for a meeting with a woman, and this scene was useful too, the popular opinion of Lovecraft is that of a horror genius, a creepy guy, but this reminds us, he's just a dude, and he was in love with a sexy librarian too. But of course, we also get some good old creepy dimensional incursion stuff, guardians of gates and that stuff, zuul. I think the strength of this book is the juxtaposition of Howard Lovecraft's own life, and the fantastical elements, and this tension is something the book itself addresses, in Lovecraft's narration about how the best writers do not write about themselves, but they use their imaginations to imagine entirely new worlds. But what does a writer do when his imaginary worlds start encroaching on his real life? It's a fascinating question, and one I hope the series focuses on.
After this, things move along quickly, Lovecraft is mugged by 2 sailors, Sylvia (his love interest) is actually engaged to 'a war hero' and 'Providence's most eligeble bachelor', Howard's mother is in an asylum, and he disagrees with their treatments, and Howard begins to think of writing the Necronomicon, once more, we get the juxtaposition of real life, soap-opera scenes, like Howard seeing Sylvia having sex in the back of her car, with the more fantastical elements.
Then, we get the real start of the story, the Sailor's who previously mugged Lovecraft are attacked and killed by more mysterious tentacles, Howard wakes up thinking it was a dream he had, and a starting point for a new story, but it actually happened!
Overall, this was a very strong opening issue, with some excellent moments and ideas, it was an excellent picture of the 1920s and portrait of Lovecraft, I think the best thing about the book is how it mixes real life true moments about Lovecraft with Carter's story, and the fantasy, it reminds me of one of my favourite early Matt Fraction books, the Five Fists Of Science, which combined the real life figures of Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain into a fantasy story.
Art - This was interesting, and a good compliment to the story, Tony Salmons is capable of handling both the more esoteric fantasy scenes, and also the human drama. Some of his angle choices were odd, but it was distinctive, and fluid. I liked how freemoving the art was, it seemed to be trying to move off the page almost, rushed and busy, but in a good way. This was added to by how the SFX were integrated into the art. It's unconventional, and not my favourite style, but it fits with this book, where something cleaner probably would not have worked.
Best Line - 'Howard Lovecraft could have had me with a Cigar Band'
As I said, this gets a 7/10