I haven’t quite finished reading the Fall of Cthulhu series. There are 2 volumes left, but it may be a while until I get my hands on them. So I’m going to start by reviewing the first four volumes, The Fugue, The Gathering, The Gray Man, and The Godwar.
The Fall of Cthulhu ‘verse
Let me start by talking a bit about the ‘verse and the books themselves. The ‘verse is essentially the modern day in a Lovecraftian world that has forgotten its horrifying history. But all that is about to change. Nylarthotep wants to awaken Cthulhu, not so that Cthulhu can reign but so that Nodens (a Lovecraftian deity expanded on more in other authors’ work) the great hunter can hunt something worthwhile. Nodens has plans he’s not sharing with Nylarthotep.
The protagonists are (for the most part) not occultists. Anthropologists, college students, officers of the law…ordinary folks who find themselves dealing with something more-than-mind-boggling.
There are two worlds. The waking world (complete with monsters) and the Dreamlands. Having read the Sandman books last year and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath just a few months back, I was drawn to the Dreamlands. The artwork has a Sandman-esque feel to it but rather than falling under Dream’s purview, our characters are looked after by The Harlot. I’m not sure where she fits into the mythos, but I like her character.
Characters in the books end up going in and out of the Dreamlands. Lucifer, introduced as a street-girl from Brazil, knows a lot more about the Dreamlands and the Harlot than she lets on. But most of what we know is that she can offer protection in her area, she’ll trade information in exchange for a part of you, and she offers you her boxes of forgetfulness.
The artwork reminded me of reading the Sandman books. It’s illustrated by a handful of artists, all with their own style. And sometimes even a single artist seems to vary their style between sections. I didn’t like everyone’s work equally, but I enjoyed the variety.
The Fugue (vol.1)
Of all the Lovecraftian fiction I’ve read, this book felt the most like a Lovecraftian short story. It follows a young male college student, someone other than the main characters of later books (though he’ll be important there too), as he attempts to discover the horror which drove his anthropologist uncle to several hideous extremes. He discovers the Dreamlands and the Harlot, but he’s in no way prepared to take on the horrors that await him.
This book was almost a self-contained story, like Lovecraft’s own short stories. Yes, we want to know more about the sinister boarding house, the eldritch idol, and the madness-inducing ceremonial knife. We also want to know if Nylarthotep and Nodels will be successful, but the book reads well on its own. I’d give it 4.5/5 stars and highly-recommend it as a way to figure out if you’d like the rest of the series.
The Gathering (vol.2)
This book has some of the most beautiful artwork of the four. It follows four eldrich creatures as Nylarthotep awakens and transforms them into his associates. The artwork/scripting for the Masked Mute captured my imagination. It’s beautiful and rather hard to describe. She’s picture on the cover in one of her many masks, dancing through the apocalypse.
Less of a gripping plotline, but it’s a lovely setup to the next books. Also some good horror. I’d give it 4/5 stars, 3/5 if it weren’t for the artwork.
The Gray Man (vol.3)
This story brings back the local Sherrif who’ll be our protagonist for the next two books at least. We met him at the end of The Fugue, but only as someone observing our then-protagonist. We also meet Lucifer, who’s able to shed some light on the histories and mysteries of the evil forces at work.
The plotline of this book is more gripping than The Gathering because it has a more concrete plot, but it follows a similar theme. Our heroes are drawn together and prepare for the oncoming war (just as Nylarthotep’s forces did in the last volume). 4.5/5 stars. Artwork wasn’t as good, perhaps, but the plot was great. I went straight from reading this into The Godwar.
The Godwar (vol.4)
Really rather self-explanatory. Finally the forces of good, sanity, and the American Way meet up with the forces of darkness, madness, and (mostly) chaos. We pick up the protagonist of the first novel, while we’re at it, and they all head off to Ry’leh to awaken (?) Cthulhu.
Nodens and Nylarthotep are in attendance as Cthulhu is raised…and we don’t know what will happen next. A solid 4/5 stars for this one.
I find most Lovecraftian fiction barely tolerable. I was, therefore, quite skeptical of Lovecraftian graphic novels. They’d not only have to get the plot right but also the illustrations. I was overwhelmed by how good they are. As you can probably tell from my ratings, I recommend this series to anyone with an interest in Lovecraft.
Now I have to figure out how to get the 5th & 6th volumes at a reasonable price!