Mystic Masters and Malign Monstrosities

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #1

I didn’t hear about this one before it came out, but I just can’t resist a comic about Providence, Rhode Island’s favorite son.

This one isn’t about horror/fantasy author H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, but on the author himself, struck with a bad case of writer’s block, suffering through editors who don’t value his stories, and with his relationship with his semi-sorta-kinda girlfriend Sylvia at a standstill. He gets mugged by a couple of sailors, visits his mother in the madhouse, learns that Sylvia is cheating on him, and then an ancient cursed book in the library goes and makes things even worse by talking to him and declaring him “The Key and Guardian of the Gate.” And he finally breaks his writer’s block when he comes up with a story about the sailors who robbed him being attacked by a tentacled horror on their boat. But Howard, his elderly aunts tell him, didn’t you read this morning’s paper — that all happened just last night…

Verdict: Thumbs up. On one hand, it’s a nice little meditation on Lovecraft’s (highly fictionalized) life, but it’s also a decent little dose of proper cosmic horror, too. So far, they ain’t showing the monsters, which is exactly the right thing to do — Lovecraftian fiction is hard enough to do without showing the tentacled horrors too early…

Madame Xanadu #10

Nimue has seemingly captured the Phantom Stranger, angering her lover Zatara in the process, since the Stranger was Zatara’s guest. Unfortunately, the capture was merely a ruse on the Stranger’s part as he magicks Madame Xanadu away to propose that she join his association of mystics to help usher in the new heroic age. She angrily rejects him, insisting that he keeps manipulating others even as he points out that she plans to let tough cop Jim Corrigan die to raise a new magical ally. In the end, the Stranger leaves her alone, but Nimue learns that Corrigan’s death has turned him into the Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance, a terrible mystic juggernaut of death and destruction. Upset that her benign neglect of Corrigan could lead to such a tragic error, she decides to stop using her fortunetelling to benefit only herself and become a freelance seer, helping anyone who needs her talents.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice ending for this first storyarc — the final confrontation between Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger on the astral plane is nicely realized and the debut of the Spectre is shrouded in unexpected menace. As always, Matt Wagner‘s writing is outstanding, and Amy Reeder Hadley‘s artwork is even better. I’ll miss Hadley’s art in the next storyline (which will be illustrated by Michael William Kaluta), but I understand she will be back for future stories.

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