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May disappoint Lovecraft enthusiasts [Possible Spoilers]
on 5 October 2011
As a fan of Lovecraft's writing, and this story in particular, I was very interested in this adaptation. While the artistic talent on show is excellent, I felt that it missed the mark in terms of staying true to the source material and conveying the true horror presented in Lovecraft's work.
There are a number of additions and omissions that may bother fans of the original story:
1) Some simplifications seem to have been taken to make the story more accessible to people who are unfamiliar with Lovecraft - The Necronomicon, for example, is stated to be a history of the Elder Things (and, by implication, nothing more than that), and most references to the rest of his mythos are removed.
2) A scene is added where Lake and Dyer argue angrily about whether or not to investigate the triangular "footprint" fossil by moving the camp northwest, with others taking sides and eventually dividing the entire team. This unnecessary conflict delays the more interesting parts of the story and the four pages it takes up could be used better elsewhere.
3) In the scene where Dyer and co. investigate the second camp, some of the significant details are changed: the burials are absent and the dissection is a mess. This seems to have been done to add more mystery, but for me just removed that hint of science and culture.
4) The scene where Dyer is interpreting the wall carvings is one place where change would have been very welcome, but is actually more or less unchanged from the original story. As such, it's mostly a monologue of Dyer describing the culture and history, inter-cut with occasional panels of the carvings themselves.
5) In the first few pages the artist uses the 'tekeli-li' cry of the shoggoth to represent the sound of a subway train, linking to the subway train metaphor for the oncoming shoggoth near the end. While I can see 'tekeli-li' being the written expression of the noise of a train, the sound is also described halfway through the story as a 'strange whistling or piping noise' like the wind blowing through a cave. There is no way to reconcile these two concepts and I don't understand how this slipped the artist's notice. Given how many times this comes up, it's a very jarring inconsistency.
6) The horror aspect of the shoggoths in their mimicking of the Elder Things and their practice of beheading them is not even mentioned. This leaves the shoggoth as little more than a scary movie monster that the heroes run from, with none of the malice and evil intelligence (or pseudo-intelligence) hinted at in the original.
My final criticism is a very subjective one: in some places, the art does not provide enough weirdness and/or horror to really do justice to the story. The 'big reveal' of the city was particularly underwhelming as the aesthetic is supposed to be entirely alien and yet it just looks like white skyscrapers, albeit with five sides instead of four. I wasn't expecting an attempt to draw non-euclidean angles (Lovecraft's favourite alien architectural feature), but something with a little more imagination would have been appreciated. The Elder Things themselves look quite goofy and cartoonish, but to the artist's credit the Shoggoth is very well depicted. Most of the illustrations of the mountains are excellent but a few lack the terror they are supposed to evoke.
I was overall disappointed with this adaptation because it's lacking in the key elements of Lovecraft's story: The alien landscape, creatures and city; the 'human' qualities of the Elder Things and sadness of their fate; and the relation of this story with the rest of the mythos.