The (Graphic) Case of Charles Dexter Ward

A classic Lovecraft story gets the comic-book treatment

Something eldritch this way shambles …
Something eldritch this way shambles …

Old Howard Phillips Lovecraft, now there's a man with a literary legacy.

Never mind his lambasting of T. S. Eliot back in the day or, much less amusing, the various blots of racism staining his oeuvre.

Focus instead on the sheer cultural pervasiveness of his Cthulhu Mythos, the way that story cycle is where the Miskatonic University of the Re-Animator series comes from, the way it's part of the background for Mike Mignola's Hellboy and the raison d'être of the Hideout Theatre's Black Vault show, how there's a species of spider in California – Pimoa cthulhu – named after the elder god, and how there's nary a geek anywhere in the world who doesn't know that Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

Mind you, Lovecraft himself wasn't so enamored of his "Case of Charles Dexter Ward," leaving it to be published only after his death – first by Weird Tales and then by Arkham House. But it's a sufficiently creepy narrative for those interested in such things, and well adapted by I.N.J. Culbard in this full-color graphic-novel treatment, released by indie publisher Self Made Hero this past week.

"For those interested in such things," now there's a qualifying statement, right? That is to say: For fans of old-school horror, and especially for anyone who's really into HPL's baroque prose-stylings – or those cinematic versions of Edgar Allan Poe stories that Roger Corman directed for American International Pictures in the early 1960s.

(Remember? Especially The Masque of the Red Death and The Raven?)

Those old Corman reels – the pacing, the color palette, the camera angles – that's very much the atmosphere contained within this handsome, horror-ferrying volume of ink & paper from Self Made Hero. The skilled Culbard knows how to work an effective rhythm with his sequences of panels and pages, speeding or slowing the passage of time as required by the action and import of each scene, bringing this tale of a dead spirit reaching from beyond the grave via powers gleaned from certain Darker Realms to its satisfying conclusion.

We're giving it an ichor-dripping thumbs-up.

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