Ceej Says… The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath review [Thought Bubble 2014]

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Click to enlarge.

Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Writer: H.P. Lovecraft
Artist/Adaptation: I.N.J. Culbard
Release Date: 15th November 2014 (Thought Bubble)

“Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.”

In the latest in his ongoing series of adaptations of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, British creator I.N.J. Culbard has turned his eye to The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, a Lovecraft novella based around Randolph Carter, a man desperately seeking to revisit the unimaginably beautiful city he glimpsed during the dreams of his childhood.  Journeying beyond the realm of sleep, Carter finds himself determinedly searching the Dreamlands for Kadath, the home of the Gods, and his best chance of returning to the city whose memory has haunted his waking life.

In the same vein as his previous Lovecraft adaptations, Culbard displays a steady hand here, showing a measured, organised approach towards the sometimes dense and unwieldly prose he is adapting.  Without much of a familiarity with the source material, I’m not sure to what extent Culbard has tinkered with the narrative and flow of the story, but the end result is a smooth, engaging read that feels as though it were crafted specifically for the sequential art format.

The themes here are varied, incorporating aspects of horror, fantasy and no small amount of surrealism during Carter’s seemingly endless journey.  More than that, this seems to be about expressing the scope of man’s capacity to dream, with Carter delving deeper and deeper into the Dreamlands as his quest to recapture that glorious vision from his childhood begins to border on frantic obsession.  The characters he meets along the way allow Culbard’s flair for the bizarre to take center stage, with ghouls, monstrous creations and anthropomorphic allies all rendered in his distinctively straightforward – yet utterly captivating – style.

On reflection, Lovecraft himself once stated that he felt the continuous onslaught of weird imagery may perhaps actually diminish the “desired impression of strangeness”, and to be honest, that is a fairly accurate self-criticism.  Sometimes the weirdness does get a little repetitive, and with the complete and utter lack of anything even resembling normality for the bulk of this book, the effect does lessen slightly as the story goes on.  That said, credit needs to be given to Culbard’s always impressive character design for managing to keep things interesting.  His colour work in particular deserves special mention, with sweeping palette changes accompanying Carter’s journey from realm to realm. 

Overall, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath has something of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to it, albeit a slightly darker version.  It’s difficult not to get swept up in the passion and enthusiasm behind Randolph Carter’s quest, and Culbard’s clear affection for all things Lovecraft shines through in every page.  While some of the names, places and situations may be a little ‘abstract’ for some tastes, the final pages as Carter reaches his destination are all but guaranteed to resonate with the reader, and provide a smile-raising sense of closure to what can, at times, be a somewhat disorienting journey.  Another impressive success from the team at SelfMadeHero, then, and a worthy addition to Culbard’s rapidly-expanding Lovecraft portfolio.

You can find out more about all of SelfMadeHero’s releases, including The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, on their official website.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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