Picking up a dusty tome of HP Lovecraft fiction from the used bookstore, or flipping through the pages of some impenetrable compendium of his at the local library is a veritable rite of passage into weird geekdom. Since his prolific career began about a century ago, Lovecraft has ushered hundreds, thousands, and millions into the halls of weird fiction, horror, twisted fantasy, and science fiction. He was prolific, paranoid, and unsavory in his beliefs. Driven by an odd mix of introversion and xenophobic tendencies, Lovecraft filled his stories with monsters, that in retrospect, were veiled caricatures of the his non-white neighbors. While he’s been far from rehabilitated, the general consensus is that with the man long dead and his work in the public domain, it’s fair game to explore his work, invent new stories based on his vast lore, and tap into the ineffable horrors he delved with out own senses of purpose. With that in mind, “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 from Ablaze Comics reinterprets one of Lovecraft’s more obscure (yet still relevant) unpublished novellas. While relative simple, “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 is eye candy with maximalist intentions, which makes for a fun read. Let’s descend…
Written by Florentino Florez
Illustrated by Guillermo Sanna and Jacques Salomon
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Reviewed by Kobi Bordoley
Randolph Carter, a traveler to dreamland, tries not to wake up before reaching his goal, the elusive Kadath: the home of the gods, a place of fantasy and overflowing imagination. Carter walks through a world full of threats and abominable monsters, but also of palaces, exuberant cities, and geographies that remind man of his insignificant role on the gigantic cosmic chessboard. What are the reasons to keep going when everything around us is terrifying and lethal? Kadath may offer some answers to this question! An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath unlike anything you’ve read before.
Before going further, let us drop a (perhaps?) hot take: most Lovecraft stories are kinda bad. Yeah, we said it. His sense of pace is nearly non-existent, his pages are full of dense exposition and asides, and the themes are pretty repetitive. Yes, he has his gems, his lightning in a bottle stories that captured the horror that lies at heart of awe: A Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Color Out of Space, etc. But let’s be honest, he’s got a hell of a lot of duds. Lovecraft excels at building atmosphere, world building, and a kind of decrepit, grouchy charm that equal parts endearing and exasperating. All of this is to say that Lovecraft, in our opinion, is sometimes best enjoyed not in its original prose form, but as radio plays, audiobooks, board games, and comics. In comics, the art can do a lot of the narrative legwork. This is the case in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1. Randolph Carter, our intrepid dreamer, is off to find Kadath, the city of the gods. The reason why isn’t that important, and his purpose there is likely insignificant in the long run. What’s relevant is the journey, the Gulliver’s Travel style romp through curious lands with their conniving inhabitants.
Luckily, Sanna and Salomon’s art really takes us there. Thick colors make up the pictures, mimicking oil pastels with a light wash-out reminiscent of early newspaper comics. Pixelated crosshatching add texture to the pages, which really add to the old school, vintage vibe. Still, all the art and panels in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 are clear and legible. On the macro level, this comic has everything we’d want from a sweeping, bright-eyed adventure story. On a more microlevel, “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 succeeds as well. The dream world Randolph Carter explores is replete with odds and ends, bustling bazaars, lecherous fish people, and other creepy crawlies. The Zoogs, a species of imp/ape tale-tellers with who brew moon wine, are a clear visual standout. In total, the art in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 is simple, yet expert. It tells the story it needs to tell, and doesn’t try to do too much more. There are no bells and whistles here, but given this is Lovecraft lore, that doesn’t mean it lacks visual intrigue.Continued below
The writing in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 is pretty straight forward, and Florez knows that this kind of story is about building a sense of wonder; everything else is ancillay to that. Basically, in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 we have Randolph Carter traveling from town to town, noting the dark woods and forbidding atmosphere, offering moon wine to dignitaries who in turn give him whispers of prophecy and direction. So goes the questing. What we didn’t expect, however, is the humor in “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1. One moment that sticks out is when a zoog grabs a cat as if to eat it, but then Florez subverts our expectations in a fun, mischievous, and creepy way. (Seriously, what is up with those cats?). The last quarter of “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 gets more down and dirty with the horror, and the results, while not groundbreaking, are certainly fun. Again, the art department carries here.
All in all, “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 is a straightforward yet effective story. Just as we stumbled across an errant piece of Lovecraft fiction during our formative years, we have no doubt that “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 will serve that purpose for a future generation and latecomers to the mythos alike. If you have an appetite for twisted space horrors and shrouded fantasy vistas, “Lovecraft: Unknown Kadath” #1 will make an excellent addition to your pull list.
Final Verdict: 7.8. To the point and enthralling, this is a fine addition to the mythos that should whet the appetite of newcomer and grizzled dreamer alike.