Or, â€œIf Cthulhu calls, take a messageâ€¦â€
Okay, I have to admit, Iâ€™ve been bad. But I am about to try and make up for it.
Iâ€™ve heard all the love that the guys here at Major Spoilers have been heaping on BOOM! Studios. Iâ€™d heard that they had won the â€œBest New Publisherâ€ award from Wizard Magazine. Iâ€™ve listened to the podcasts and read the reviews. Despite all that, I really did not think that BOOM! had anything for me as a comic reader. Well tonight, while I was getting caught up on listening to the podcasts, I heard Stephenâ€™s interview with Chip Mosher, the Marketing and Sales Director for Boom Studios. Something about it finally got the better of me and I decided to check BOOM! Studios out.
That is what brought me to review FALL OF CTHULHU #11, by Michael Alan Nelson. Now whereas I know nothing about the first ten issues, I do know a little about the Cthulhu mythos, having read quite a bit of Lovecraft during a misspent youth. The first thing I noticed about this book was the use of location names from the Cthulhu world, such as the Miskatonic University. After I finished I saw that, as advertised, it is a great jumping on point for new readers. My lack of knowledge regarding the previous storyline(s) had absolutely no effect on how I comprehended this issue.
The issue starts off by introducing us, the new reader, to the staff of the Arkham Police Department. After meeting Deputies Zimmer and Bill, as well as Sheriff Dirk, we go straight to the focus of the issue: A young Brazilian girl has been arrested for breaking-and-entering. Seem tame? You should know better. Deputy Bill starts off this interrogation acting as the Bad Cop, but you get the feeling that it isnâ€™t an act. After he starts to blow up at the prisoner and she shames him quick. Trying to get the situation back under control, the sheriff sends him outside. Bill seems to be a vindictive @$$ as he tells the Sheriff he is going to call immigration.
Let me describe Bill; you know the movies where there is always the country cop who is too big for his britches and likes to push people around? They could have based those characters on Deputy Bill.
Sheriff Dirk takes a slightly different approach, and makes a little more progress. It seems the young girl is called Lucifer, short for Luci Jenifer Inacio Das Neves, and she was in the house because she thought it was the resident of her former employer, Professor Walter McKinley. After checking some files, Sheriff Dirk tells her that the Professor is dead, having committed suicide several moths ago. This sends Lucifer into an emotional panic, and the Sheriff cannot get anymore questions answered. The Sheriff and Deputy Bill (I think) discuss the matter a little more, and the Sheriff asks Bill if he remembers the Professor that blew his brains out in the cafÃ©, the one with the crazy nephew. Bill replies that he thought they where done with all that business, to which Sheriff Dirk replies, â€œApparently not.â€
Back in the bullpen, they are handling the case like any other: getting a line-up ready, contacting the victims, checking out the girlâ€™s story, etc. It seems the I.N.S. wonâ€™t be able to send anyone down for several days, Zimmer canâ€™t contact the Chapels to come down for the line-up, and the name the girl gave is probably a fake. We get a couple of pages of dialogue as the Sheriff and Deputy Bill make some guesses as to the connection between the Professor and the girl, but it really seems that the main point is to make it absolutely clear what the archetypes are for each character.
After returning to the holding cell, the Sheriff beings to question Lucifer. It seems she was a street thief in Rio when the Professor caught her stealing his wallet. Instead of turning her in, he gave her a job as gopher, translator and all around girl Friday. Deputies Zimmer and Bill interrupt the Sheriffâ€™s questioning with some disturbing news: The Chapels (they owned the house that Lucifer was caught in) are dead, murdered. Sheriff Dirk turns on the girl, demanding to now who was in the house with her. She seems to honestly not know why the Sheriff has suddenly gotten so belligerent, until he tells her about the murders. This has an effect on the girl, and she whispers, â€œâ€¦estaâ€™ aquiâ€¦â€ and begins to draw something on the floor of her cell. The Sheriff demands to know what is going on, but Luci ignores him as she finished her drawings. From a birdâ€™s-eye shot, we see she is now surrounded by strange writing that she scrawled on the ground, some sort of spell circle. She looks up and says, with a panicked, drawn face, as she holds herself, â€œYouâ€™re all going to die.â€
From here, we kick it up a gear and the investigation starts in earnest. A visit to the murder scene reveals a blood bath with cryptic messages written in blood on the walls, there is mysterious surveillance footage from a gas station camera, and the Sheriff mysteriously looses contact with his office, and discovers the terrifying reason why. This and more gives a good set up for what looks to be the beginning of an entertaining story and a well structured first act.
The name of this storyline, The Gray Man, has a solid start with this first of four parts, entitled â€œLuciferâ€, and I find myself looking forward to more. It has all ingredients of a good story, but only the next few issues will tell how good. Regardless, this is a solid, entertaining start. This is my first exposure to Michael Alan Nelsonâ€™s writing and I must say that it is very readable. Everything flows smoothly and there are no harsh dialogue problems that some modern writers have. The dialogue-free panel beats are well placed and lend a cinematic feel.
This is the first BOOM! Studios book I have read, and I must say I will be checking out others as I can. The story contained in FALL OF CTHULHU #11 felt solid, and I look forward to the rest. There are some issues with the art, but on a second read, I noticed the visual clues to tell the male characters apart. Otherwise the art is solid and works well with the story.
I give FALL OF CTHULHU #11 a solid 3 out of 5 stars. I thought that it was a good start to what should shape-up to be an entertaining story. Pick it up if you are a Lovecraft fan or are looking for a break from the superhero scene.