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Robot Review | Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom

Written by Bruce Brown and Dwight L MacPherson
Art by Thomas Boatwright
Arcana; $12.95

As I mentioned in last week’s What Are You Reading? (where I incorrectly referred to it as Howard Lovecraft and the Ice Kingdom), I didn’t care for Bruce Brown and Renzo Podesta’s Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. I liked Podesta’s art for the most part, but some of his choices bothered me. Like, when a character sees a city of ice for the first time and marvels at how glorious and beautiful it is, maybe the audience should be able to see it too instead of just taking the character’s word for it. The greater problem though was that it was that it was too clunky about the way it tried to balance Lovecraftian horror with a kids comics sensibility.

There were some cool, creepy moments, but they were ruined by simplistic characterization and actions that just didn’t feel real. That’s most clearly illustrated in the scene where young Howard Lovecraft meets C’thulhu for the first time. I’m not a Lovecraft scholar (hell, I’m barely even a fan), but I know that the elder gods are supposed to be huge and terrifying; that just looking at them drives people insane. But when Howard meets this monster, he runs away and beats the Deep One by stopping short at a cliff so that the pursuing Wile E. C’thulhu flies right over. Howard then saves the repentant beast and names him “Spot,” a nickname the elder god gratefully accepts from his new master. The whole scene struck me as ridiculous and I wasn’t sure how anyone could salvage Frozen Kingdom to make a better second volume. But Brown (with the help of new co-writer Dwight MacPherson) does.

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom picks up where Frozen Kingdom leaves off in the story, but the tone is all different. This is a flawed comparison, but I kept thinking of Edward Gorey as I read it. Frozen Kingdom tried to be all-ages by throwing in things for both adults and kids, but failed because it was too easy to draw circles around its parts and say, “This is for kids” and “This is for grownups.” Undersea’s approach is the kind that Neil Gaiman’s always advocating for: that it’s okay to tell a story for children and make it good and scary. Kids will recognize themselves in Howard Lovecraft and think it’s pretty cool that he has a monster for a friend (Howard doesn’t treat him like a puppy in Undersea), a humorously loony dad (who was genuinely disturbing in the first book), and a dauntlessly resourceful cop as a mentor (a new and very welcome character). There’s also a pretty awesome cat. And while readers are enjoying all that, they’re encouraged to be good and creeped out by the world.

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Food or Comics? | Vengeance, Flight, crossovers and more

Vengeance #1

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, my first pick off the shelf would be Vengeance #1 (Marvel, $3.99); I love Joe Casey, and especially when he’s given a long leash and room to play in a big universe. Seeing Nick Dragotta drawing this is an added bonus. Next up would be comics’ dueling summer blockbusters, Flashpoint #3 (DC, $3.99) and Fear Itself #4 (Marvel, $3.99). After that, I’d get the excellent Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance #2 (DC, $2.99); when Azzarello is on the ball he’s great to read, and this seems to be that.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Charles Soule


During HeroesCon earlier this month, I ran into 27 writer Charles Soule. Being a big fan of music (and comics of course), I was ashamed to admit that I had not run across his series (which launched last year from Image/Shadowline), built upon the rock and roll legend about certain very brilliant musicians dying at the age of twenty-seven. With the trade paperback of the first four issues set to go on sale this Wednesday, Soule and I settled in for a quick email interview. I was intrigued to learn about Soule’s contest for readers. Also, we talk about e sure to read to the end of this interview for a mention of Vanilla Ice.

Tim O’Shea: While at the heart of the tale, the threat of death looms–and yet as you note in this November 2010 CBR interview 27‘s theme is “really creativity”. Can you talk about why you wanted to explore the concept of creativity partially through death?

Charles Soule: Jumping right into the heavy stuff, eh? Fine by me. The “hook” to 27 revolves around the many brilliant musicians and artists who have died at age twenty-seven – they’re known in rock and roll mythology as the “27 Club,” and the idea is that there’s some sort of curse that takes particularly talented individuals well before their time. In the 27 comic, Will Garland, a superstar guitar hero, turns twenty-seven and his life falls apart. His hand gets hit with a nerve disease that makes him unable to play, and all sorts of other terrible things start to occur that make him realize he’s been hit by the curse. From there, he has to try to beat the curse and live to see twenty-eight. Lots of supernatural craziness, lots of rock music lore, lots of thrills, chills and guitar fills.

But as you noted, that’s just the surface story – the carnival barker tease that gets people in the freakshow tent. The deeper theme is creativity; why do some people seem almost compelled to make art, and what does that cost them? Why are some amazing talents taken young, and, of course, is it better to burn out or fade away (to, er, re-coin a phrase)? These are big questions, and I thought they were worth exploring. Most people are creative to some extent, and the ‘why’ of it all is worth trying to unravel.

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical producers ‘stepped in dog poo’

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”

In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]

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