The advent of steampunk as a somewhat established genre has brought along a lot of friends from the past. Rooted most strongly in the works of Verne, the genre has also deviated a bit from Verne’s original works as it has evolved in the modern pop culture. Seemingly in the search for more steampunk material, fans of the genre have delved deeper into the past and found some other source material, namely steampunk horror. Although potentially typified by Poe or Shelley, the real resurgence in horror from this time has no doubt been H.P. Lovecraft. His horror stories are more popular today than probably at any other time (including when he was alive) and other mediums (including board games and video games) use his inspiration to create their own works.
The collected volume of Howard Lovecraft and the Three Kingdoms from Arcana Studios is not so different. It opens with a quote from Poe and quickly introduced us to a dying elder Lovecraft and his son. A part of Lovecraftian fiction was his own interaction with his work, in which he himself explored his own horrors through his pen and paper. In this case it would seem as though the elder were the one to really undertake the journey into this dark despair and to record the thoughts by way of the book. As a reading of this work this makes more sense, because although the younger Lovecraft is in fact the Lovecraft, it doesn’t exactly read like that. The father’s weeping is more consistent with the author’s works, not the dynamic nature of the youngster.
Before I get too far ahead of myself though, I would like to talk about Santa Claus. It is not because Santa Claus plays a very important role in this book, but rather because he shouldn’t play one at all. The idea of Santa Claus providing gifts to children is an idea that is purely 20th century, and as this book is based in 1894, it is a bit of an anachronism when little Howard gets his first Lovecraftian torture novel from jolly old Saint Nick. Am I being too picky on the anachronism? Not really, because it is the anachronism which actually makes this graphic novel work. For those more familiar with Lovecraft’s work, they will find among the author’s thoughts some subtle and not-so-subtle opinions on race and gender, neither of which would really fly in the modern world as opinions to be held outside of the far right of the spectrum. These opinions which exist in his work are also anachronisms, and if they are replaced by clearly misunderstood aspects of modern day Yuletide, then it is for the better. Out go the remnants of outdated thinking, in comes a tentacled creature named Spot (the name Spot for a pet being a bit of an anachronism as well.)
The end process of this selective process of finding the right balance between modern and past is something akin to a children’s book, which to be fair seems to be the point anyway. Dark and dangerous is replaced with cuddly and squishy, with the terrible Lovecraftian monsters being no scarier than the creatures in “Where the Wild Things Are.” The end result is basically a Lovecraftian tale aimed at children, and one which is successful in removing the scariest parts of the writer’s bag of tricks. Is it for adults? I would say equally yes, particularly those that do like a bit of dark Victorian to go with their daily lives. It is maybe not a groundbreaking work, but pays homage to the writer without taking itself too seriously and ends up being a fun read with matching artwork to complement the stories.
Story: Bruce Brown Art: Renzo Podesta and Thomas Boatwright
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read for Adult, Buy for Child
Arcana Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review