Saturday, December 16, 2017


Meanwhile, Dark Horse was largely busy this year with the American side of their business.  The manga side was mostly just keeping up with Berserk's most recent return from hiatus, but they also put out a single volume manga dealing with one of modern horror's favorite authors: H. P. Lovecraft.

H. P. LOVECRAFT'S THE HOUND AND OTHER STORIES (Maken - Lovecraft Kessakushu), adapted and artwork by Gou Tanabe.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2017.


This collection covers three stories from Lovecraft's earlier days.  First there is "The Temple," where a crew of a Nazi U-boat is slowly driven to madness and mutiny by ancient forces.  Next is the titular story, where a pair of graverobbers steal a pendant and unleash a terrible supernatural creature in the process.  Finally there is "The Nameless City," where an explorer discovers a lost city in the desert, and barely escapes from the forces that destroyed it in the first place.


I know, I know, these days H.P. Lovecraft and his creations are a concept that is almost as thoroughly exhausted as zombies.  Thankfully, there's no Cthulhu to be found here, and the only substantial reference to the mythos Lovecraft would later build are references to the Necronomicon.  Otherwise these are nothing but three stand-alone works with a common author, albeit with diminishing returns over the course of the volume.

"The Temple" is easily the stand-out adaptation of this trio.  The only major change was moving it up to World War II, as the original story was written in 1920 and set in World War I.  It takes great advantage of the natural claustrophobic atmosphere of a submarine, and even if it had stopped before its final, supernatural twist it would have been an excellent and intense piece.

In comparison, "The Hound" is closer to what most people expect from Lovecraft but is also something of a throwback to the days of Gothic fiction.  There's more than a bit of Poe in this premise, but it ends up being kind of rushed towards the end.  While the protagonists, who are a couple of decadent thrill-seekers with not a lot of distinction between the two, do get their just desserts, a little bit more buildup to the end would have made it all the better.

"The Nameless City" is the weakest of the lot, despite being one of the more structurally intriguing ones.  It seamlessly combines the nameless protagonist's descent into the ruins with his descent into the sort of supernatural hellscapes of madness that Lovecraft is so known for.  This one also retains the most text from its original story, which is probably for the best considering that our protagonist is the only character and thus would be talking to no one but himself otherwise.  Still, this is probably the one that would benefit the most from having some larger mythological hooks.  The ending is also something of a disappointment, as our protagonist is able to walk away largely unharmed.  For Lovecraft, this is an unusually happy ending, but it just demonstrates why he didn't write them all that often.  Still, it's only a mild disappointment for what is otherwise a good collection.


Tanabe's art is perfectly pulpy, which itself is a perfect match for this material.  It's gritty, heavily textured, and soaked in inky shadows.  It wouldn't be strange at all to imagine some of the panels here serving as illustrations for some literary Lovecraft collection or an old paperback novel.  There's only two minor downsides to this.  His faces are well-drawn, but kind of stiff which does hamper some of the horror and mental torment they are meant to be going through.  Also, those inky shadows sometimes go too far and start to obscure the details.


Lovecraft had a very florid yet particular style of writing that's not easy to capture, and with this work it's gone through a bit of a game of Telephone by translating the story into Japanese, then re-translating Tanabe's adaptation into English.  The fact that the story manages to find a good balance between natural sounding dialogue and Lovecraft's own writing style is a credit to both Tanabe and to the translator, Zac Davisson.


Even if you never want to hear about R'lyeh again, you should still give The Hound and Other Stories a chance.  It manages to mostly capture the atmosphere that defines so much of Lovecraft's work while spotlighting some of his earlier stories, all in one handsomely illustrated package.

This book is published by Dark Horse.  It is currently in print.

Want to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate to purchase manga like this one?  Then make sure to enter the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Review Giveaway here!

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