Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chasing After Young Lovecraft, Volume 1 & 2: A Graphic Novel Review

Written by José Oliver.

Art by Bartolo Torres.

If there was ever a horror themed equivalent to Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes," "Young Lovecraft" has to be it. Both comic strips are intoxicatingly fun to read.

When considering the real H.P. Lovecraft’s life, as prolific as he was with his writing, his manners bordered on the racist and his views on life were quite jaded. They permeated his works in various disturbing ways. Fortunately, that is not what this comic series is about.

It is a light-hearted fictionalized look at simply growing up. The product was originally a Spanish web-comic that began in 2004 and some may say the translated version was years in the making. Volume one released in ’09 and volume two this year. A Spanish version of volume three released at the same time, in April, and hopefully in about a year, the English edition will be available for purchase.

But for readers new to this world, they should begin with the first compilation. Some may want to know the back-story needed in order to understand why certain individuals are as they are. In volume one, Howie (as he’s known in the strip) shows that he is not afraid of bullies and he is not averse to summoning monsters to deal with them. Afterwards, he meets a strange cast of supporting characters, like Angelo Barracuda, a dark folk-singer with a perchent for the macabre, which even challenges Howie's own sensibilities. Glenn, a moody ghoul, takes a liking to young Lovecraft and moves in him. The rest of the world think he’s just an odd looking dog. Also introduced is Siouxie, a young girl who moved to Providence from Detroit.

By volume two, she shows that her feelings are not with just one boy. The reaction from Howie in becoming an exchange student and upon returning home to ask if anyone missed him is just priceless. And the hijinks are not over either. The web comic is ongoing, but updates do not appear as often as some fans might hope.

The product that creators Oliver and Torres made is great. The duo demonstrates great mastery in the three and four-panel narrative. While they are simply smaller units to a longer story-arc, the comic timing is genius. A smile is guaranteed in these micro steps and a laugh will most likely come by the end of each chapter.

The artwork is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s animated stop-motion masterpieces, Corpse Bride and Nightmare before Christmas. But when required, Torres shows he has a wider artistic range when he blends the simpler style with artistic realism. His careful use of colour makes the artwork stand out against the sea of watercolour greys.

While some adults may balk at the thought of reading the Sunday funnies, an injection of dark humour is needed at some point of everyone’s lives. Young Lovecraft gives the occult world a jostle at the rib cage, and most of the chapters will certainly tickle the funny bone. Even literary enthusiasts will laugh when parts of the book imitates how Howie—or more specifically Oliver—teases readers with a few panels of how his tainted vision can invade "One Thousand and One Nights," "Dracula" or "Treasure Island."

Hopefully more will come online and on print. The translators at KettleDrumer Books might want to get cracking on an English edition of volume three otherwise the mummy-god, Rammenoth, might lose another body part!

Visit the original web-comic:

The Lovecraft Homepage

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