A Tale of the Cthulhu Mythos

by Christian Read and Doug Holgate
from Phosphorescent Comics


Originally for Raw, New Things #6, 8/1/2002

Now here’s something different; a Mythos comic from Australia. Named Dunwich, this series is from the fledgling Phosphorescent Comics.

The plot involved two groups converging on Dunwich some seventy years after the Dunwich Horror. It appears that the stars are going to be right again, and three groups of people are on the scene. One group is Nathaniel and Rose, whose objectives are a bit obscure. Professor Zocow and his three students, have come with the definite intention of stopping whatever is going to happen. The third is a motley collection of Dunwich locals, lead by a big son of a buck named Donnell. What ensues is a three-way conflict of shifting alliances. The city folk and the locals don’t quite see eye to eye, and Professor Zocow’s crowd don’t have the same goals as Nathaniel and Rose. As the saying goes "and wackiness ensues."

The result is pretty plot-heavy for a three-issue series. Unfortunately, the author and artist have not yet achieved the clarity in their storytelling that a more experience team would have. Characters’ names are not revealed soon enough for us to automatically identify the character by name. A couple of events seem to happen and then vanish because we have difficulty keeping track of exactly who did them. Despite these flaws, and some rocky moments where we’re barely given enough cues to figure out what happened, the plot is pretty interesting, and we are kept guessing as to who’s going to come out on top in the end.

The book does show Mythos reading beyond Lovecraft. The Call of Cthulhu game is the only place I can recall hearing of the Grasp of Nyogtha. At one point we hear a sorcerer say "By Daoloth, keeper of boundaries, by He Who Must Not Be Named, foe of your master." At the very least, Read has read (pardon me) Campbell and Derleth.

However, we are also party to a regional goof or two, but these don’t harm the story at all. First of all, the Dunwich inbreds speak like they’re from the Deep South, with a lot of ‘Y’alls’ and other Southernisms. There’s also a sign which says "No colord, No Irish, no Dogs." And there are few Americans who smoke Silk Cut, and if those who do have a damn hard time finding them anywhere outside of a large city like Boston or San Francisco. These are, however, minor mistakes, and they really don’t damage the credibility of the story.

Even for someone who has grown up in the splatterpunk era, there are some rather intense and disturbingly grotesque moments. Cthulhu’s minions get free in Dunwich, and the author takes some time to show us that local mankind does learn a few new and inevitably messy ways to enjoy themselves. Doug Holgate’s art is not quite developed enough to my tastes. At times, his lines are too heavy and cartoonish to convey anything meaningful. He does, predictably, spend a lot of time on the gory bits, the tentacled horrors, and the women.

I wouldn’t call Dunwich a great must-have series. There are simply too many flaws in the presentation for the story that prevent that smooth unfolding of the story in the reader’s mind. I wouldn’t call it art, but there are certainly worse Lovecraft-inspired comics out there.