Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/Artist: Gou Tanabe
Release Date: 19th July 2017
For his first English publication, artist Gou Tanabe has chosen wisely by adapting three of H.P. Lovecraft’s original stories into the distinctive manga style. As you might expect, the unsettling horror of Lovecraft translates extremely well to the world of manga, with Tanabe’s scratchy, heavily shaded pages really helping to underscore the creeping sense of dread present throughout the course of these three tales.
Full disclosure, this is only the third manga book I’ve ever read, and while the initial reversal of what I would consider to be the ‘conventional’ reading style (top right to bottom left as opposed to top left to bottom right) does take a few pages to get used to, it soon ends up feeling intuitive and natural. It also probably doesn’t hurt that the rhythm of Lovecraft’s writing works so impressively, gradually ramping up the tension and the pace as each of his tales unfolds.
The stories themselves are fairly indicative of Lovecraft’s work, with titular tale ‘The Hound’ probably serving as the strongest of the three. Ancient horror and spiraling sanity are very much the order of the day, but The Hound has perhaps the most grounded approach of the three, with a pair of decadent young grave robbers biting off more than they can chew with their latest excavation, invoking a sinister, animalistic protector whose haunting howl follows them wherever they go.
The other two stories are solid affairs as well, with “The Temple” seeing a German submarine crew being gradually driven mad and whittled down one-by-one by the lure of a mysterious underwater temple. It feels like it could perhaps have been abridged slightly, but the ultimate effect as the lone captain finally discovers the source of the otherworldly longing in his head is an impressive one. The final tale, “The Nameless City”, features an Indiana Jones-esque archaeologist venturing deeper and deeper into the titular city, before finally coming face to face with the ageless horror which lies beneath its foundations.
However, as strong as the writing undoubtedly is (Howard Phillips was no slouch, after all), the artwork is frustratingly inconsistent throughout, with every chilling, shadowy panel of pure horror being offset by an awkwardly jarring facial expression or confusing choice of perspective. In isolation, the bulk of Tanabe’s art certainly looks the part, but there’s something about the narrative flow and rapidly shifting perspectives that makes for a truly uncomfortable read – and not in a good way.
Overall then, while the unnerving Lovecraftian stories definitely translate well into the manga style, the niggling issues with the artwork prevent this collection from becoming something truly special. In spite of this, however, it still comes highly recommended for fans of Lovecraft, fans of manga, and fans of good old fashioned horror stories.
[Click to Enlarge]