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Saturday, September 8, 2012

At The Mountains of Madness. H.P. Lovecraft (Writer), I.N.J. Culbard (Writer & Art) Sterling. (2010)

A hugely enjoyable adaptation of H.P.Lovecraft's novel of an expedition to Antarctica and the horrible discoveries that are made there. The framing device for the story is that the leader of a previous expedition, Professor Dyer is revealing the truth about what he discovered to prevent another expedition going to the same place. Professor Dyer's team had a biologist, an engineer and a physicist as well as various graduate students, assistants and engineers. The expedition went well and a base was established, the first indication of something unusual was a collection of slates with curious marks on them. Some of the team headed off on a sub-expedition to investigate further, they discovered a cave and something astonishing within it. The story follows the consequences of that discovery, including the discovery some something even more unexpected and very much more unwelcome. The reveals are nicely judged and the mix of horror, science and speculation is wonderful.
The heart of the story is H.P. Lovecraft's ideas about per-human inhabitants of Earth, visitors from elsewhere who colonized Earth and had a part in the evolution of humanity. The relics and echos of these creatures, who are hibernating rather than being departed or deceased are found in remote locations like the Antarctic. The clash of a hard-headed scientific expedition with the unimaginable is superbly done, the collapse of certainty is the motor of horror as the dreadful truth emerges.
I.N.J. Culbard has adapted the story very well into a comic, it is not an illustrated version of a prose story. The panels, splash pages and backgrounds are used inventively, in particular the page backgrounds that the panels are laid upon. The art is distinctive and effective, the cast are expressive and mobile, they interact with each other very nicely. The colouring is used to to shape the tone of the story, it shifts with the scenes and underscores the tension and developments.
The story has a great deal of exposition in it, it never feels like a static info dump, it is delivered at a nice pace and with force.A really effective, atmospheric comic about the unsuspected histoty of the world.

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