Royal Nonesuch writes his review of Howard Lovecraft & The Frozen Kingdom, the upcoming OGN from Arcana Studios!
Diamond Code: OCT090688
After visiting his father in Arkham Sanitarium, young Howard Lovecraft ignores his father's warning and uses the legendary Necronomicon to open a portal to a strange frozen world filled with horrifying creatures and grave danger. Alone and scared, Howard befriends a hideous creature he names Spot who takes him to the castle of the king where he is captured and sentenced to death.
When writer Bruce Brown visited the Outhouse forum to spread the word about his upcoming graphic novel, he introduced it as "an all-ages introduction to Lovecraft," it raised a few eyebrows amongst members of the community. Could the works of HP Lovecraft really be translated to something appropriate for younger readers? It would certainly be a difficult balance to strike. Luckily, Howard Lovecraft & The Frozen Kingdom does just that.
Brown's story is inspired, in part, by actual events. Lovecraft's father was institutionalized when HP was a child. This is where Frozen Kingdom starts, and also takes its sharp left turn into fantasy. The implication is that Lovecraft's father was driven mad by finding R'yleh, a mystical realm that should look familiar to readers of the real Lovecraft. In fact Frozen Kingdom has filled with references to the best known Lovecraft works, as well as some more obscure writings. However, one need not be a Lovecraft scholar at all in order to enjoy the OGN, since the central character is a six year old Howard himself, who gets transported to R'yleh and is eventually tasked with saving it. He meets a tentacled creature named Thu Thu Hmong, who Howard nicknames "Spot," and takes on as a companion and guide to this strange new world.
The story here is fun and accessible. It starts off appropriately spooky, but quickly shifts into a whimsical high-adventure tale with a charming lead character in young Howard. He's a rambunctious young kid who's just trying to get by in a bizarre situation. The story has plenty of action and adenture, mixed with just the right amount of humor. It makes great use of Lovecraft mythology, but does so in a way that would not prevent any non-fans from enjoying the story.
Renzo Podesta's versatile artwork fits the playful tone of the story perfectly. It builds up the creepy atmosphere of the scenes in the insane asylum, and then morphs to illustrate the wide-eyed adventure in R'yleh. Young Howard is adorable and easy to identify with and the Cthulhu-esque monsters are just monstrous enough. The line work recalls late-period Warner Brothers cartoons mixed with fantasy art, with just a little bit of Marjane Satrapi thrown in for good measure. It's a compelling blend, and the storytelling is fantastic. Splash pages only show up when they are at their most effective, and the flow from panel to panel is perfect for the most part, though a few things get confusing near the climactic battle. Despite that, the book is a pleasure to look at.
Overall, Howard Lovecraft & The Frozen Kingdom is a truly wonderful effort from Brown and Podesta. As an all ages introduction to Howard Lovercraft, the story is a success. As a fun-filled adventure story unto itself, Frozen Kingdom also succeeds.
9.5 of 10