Mobster Xulu Cultists vs. Scientists ft. Tentacles. It’s a lot less fun than it seems and a lot more messy. H.P. Lovecraft is perhaps an odd choice for an all-ages comic that ultimately relies too heavily on the trope that Lovecraftian and tentacles are synonymous.
ARCANE SECRETS: THE CURSE OF THE MOTTLED TENTACLE #1
Writer and Artist: Ángel A. Svoboda
Translator: Rafael Nieves
Letterer: Malaka Studio
Editor: Jeremy Holt
Publisher: Amigo Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
TENTACLES! GET YER TENTACLES HERE!
A bad guy mobster lives in a big scary house up on a hill (with lightning!), wherein he shelters a shady Xulu cult and turns his most trusted advisors into grey-scale octopus monsters. Got that? ONWARD! Enter: the titular mottled tentacle! It’s important. We know this because we are told so, multiple times, and, in keeping with normal treatment of valuable artifacts, said mottle tentacle is promptly put in the care of bumbling goons. You know what comes next, don’t you? THAT’S RIGHT! The goons lose it to the good guys! Meet the good guys: Doctor Ment (arcane science doctor guy who broke up with his girlfriend to be a science guy), and Harry (a goofy guy with a gun and no discernible skill set save being tossed through portals). Still with me? HERE WE GO! Mottled tentacle in hand, Ment and Harry return to their 221b Baker Street-esque flat and Doctor Ment makes immediate physical contact with their fancy evil new artifact. Bad news. Flowers and shubbery sprout all over his head and the tentacle escapes through the crazy teleportation portal that lives in their wardrobe. Harry is forced to fling himself bodily into the Unknown Zone!!! There he meets a Slimer rip-off named Elvis and they retrieve the mottle tentacle together. Do I still have you? AND THEN! Everyone returns to the flat, Doctor Ment gets over his head-shrubs and, with no meaningful clues, the identification of the mobster-cult-guy we met 20 pages ago is deduced and Doctor Ment, Harry and Elvis vow to go after him and right all wrongs.
Ángel A. Svoboda presents a story that is developing way too quickly. Arcane Secrets: the Curse of the Mottle Tentacle #1 would have been served by liberal amounts of breathing room. Although the panels, to say nothing of the pages, are packed full the entire issue is muddled and tedious to read. Nothing from the characters to the plot feel honestly Lovecraftian. As previously mentioned, Svoboda’s approach seems to be: slap some tentacles on it – call it Lovecraft! Although in the creation of an all-ages comics one can hardly incorporate the winding prose and stark horror of Lovecraft’s original Cthulu Mythos. That in mind, I might have been inclined to be more forgiving if the world of Arcane Secrets itself had been more thoroughly developed and flushed out. I’m also willing to concede that something in the narrative could have been lost in translation.
SATURDAY MORNING XULU.
The best thing about Arcane Secrets: the Curse of the Mottled Tentacle #1 was the art. It is bright, cartoony, fun and really pops offf the page – everything an all-ages comic should be. The characters are fun, each very unique, and they look like they belong in the world of Saturday morning cartoons, even if the story they are playing out does not. There are even charming touches like Doctor Ment and Harry’s housekeeper being married to a sentient pipe. The colouring goes a little too 70s pop art when Harry ventures into the Unknown Zone and the background and clouds (globules? ectoplasm?), are such violent shades of pink that Pepto-Bismal might be jealous. Although not my favourite art style on the planet, the bold lines and candy-bright colours are what save this issue.
SWING AND A MISS.
The idea of bringing H.P. Lovecraft to a new generation is tremendously ambitious, albeit interesting. The original works are so mired in the time period and the mass of their own mythology that they are difficult to conquer on the best of days – though not unrewarding. Ángel A. Svoboda has tried to distill the essence of Cthulu and his world down to the bare bones and for me, he’s missed the mark. The strength lies with the art, but that’s not enough to carry this yarn ball of a tale.