a zoo in hell


With Strange Aeons: Alan Moore's Necromicon

Horror comics generally disappoint me. I suppose the problem is that there is such a high standard, and I am not generous enough to overlook weaknesses to get some sort of half buzz from a mediocre comic book. Horror, thriller, fright -- all these forms require a keen understanding of what to show, what not to show and how much atmosphere is just right to carry the story's moods. So, it's a matter of getting the art and the writing just right. Unfortunately, the comic world seems to think that horror fans will accept sub-par work because it's just horror.

I read about Alan Moore's take on H.P. Lovecraft, Necromicon, via the Tentaclii blog, and got pretty excited about it. I realize I am a little late to the party, having missed "The Courtyard" completely, but I can blame that on bad marketing -- why did they fail to reach me? Anyway, if anyone is going to do a decent adaptation of Lovecraft, the lord of smart and weird himself may as well do it. So, I scurried over to Big Brain comics and grabbed issue #1. The awesome wrap cover with Cthulu, not the dumb one with the cops.

I have to admit I needed to warm up to Jacen Burrows' artwork a bit. The line work is well-done, but for my taste it is too clean, especially for a horror book. But the panels move nicely and the composition within the panels is effective and interesting. The story managed to pull me in, mostly due to the character work that built the FBI agents. Very nice, cinematic, dialogue follows them as they enter the asylum where are they are going to pull a "Clarice" with a former colleague gone nightmare. The fact is,  I've never been a fan of the investigation aspect which has gotten attached to Lovecraft mythos, seems like that misses the point of the fiction. So, I cringed when I saw our heroes were two FBI agents, but their banter at least convinced me to stay interested.

The interrogation of Aldo Sax is interesting and gets a lot of backstory done in a little time. As Lovecraft-style madmen go, he's not too bad, especially considering the meticulous effort involved in his crime. Aldo gives them a lead that gets the agents to a suspicious club and an extended chase sequence that carries through the rest of the issue. The creepy rock club -- are we still doing that? I am a bit distressed that this trope has survived the nineties, but it makes sense in this day and age, I suppose. Not like they are going to have a creepy little cottage pub to hang out in, and all the abandoned churches are now Unitarian, community centers or other non-profits.

Thankfully, the entire issue ends with a solid dose of otherworldly weirdness which reminds us, and the agents, what we are dealing with. Just in the nick of time, too, because the cops and robbers raid stuff was getting old. I love police drama plenty, but don't want it mixed with my horror willy-nilly. I am excited for the future of the series, but I am also worried if Alan Moore will cover as much ground as he needs to in just four total issues. He's got my attention for the next one, at any rate.

This really is Lovecraft-inspired stuff, using elements from the mythos, but going in directions that it is hard to imagine H.P. Lovecraft would undertake. Which is fine, I am not a fundamentalist by any means, but I wonder if work like this might not be improved if it was taken out of explicit reference to the mythos and left to stand on its own. Lovecraft is a market term too, these days, I know. Does it improve the story that we know it is Cthulu behind it all? What to show, what not to show, what is known and what is unknown; this is always the shadowland that effective horror must find its home in.