“The Gathering” (part 3)
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist(s): Tim Hamilton, Michel Fiffe (i), Mark Rueda (c)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
EDITOR’S NOTE: The eighth issue of Fall of Cthulhu will be available in stores this Wednesday, November 21.
Plot: A young man, under the influence of a watchful mentor, sees his wish for dark powers granted. But is he prepared for the cost?
Comments: Ah, so this is the other type of Cthulhu story. Rather than as a witness to a fall from innocence to corruption (or madness), the reader is initiated into the dark rites of the already corrupt. There’s a sordid sort of detachment, a dispassionate parade of horrors to this tale that feels very appropriately Lovecraftian.
Hamilton and Fiffe’s art aids Nelson’s grim story greatly. The work is cartoonish but eerie, with heavy reliance on black shadows and heavy black borders to forms and figures. Rueda’s in-synch colors keep to a squicky palette of sepulchral greens, purples and browns. It’s a bleak, vaguely antiquated world in which Connor has been groomed by the dread Mr. Arkham for years, only intensifying an inner corruption we learn began long ago. Evil must have run like a dark thread through his family line, preparing for his fate in prior to his birth. There’s a sense of doomed inevitability to this tale of Connor actually achieving a very unfortunate dream, which just makes the story all the more unsettling. Nelson works hard to achieve an ordinary, relentlessly average voice for the humorless and cynical young Connor, and that deadpan delivery just adds chills to the various horrors he encounters in a trip down the rabbit hole.
Of course the Dreamlands are more real than anything on earth in a Cthulhu tale, and in the Dreamlands Connor must face dread and hungry guardians, a kind of bitter Anti-Pope, and a mysterious female guide who reeks of corruption and terror despite her humorous appearance and her slyly comforting-sounding words.
After her discomfiting tour, Connor is reunited with his mentor, transformed into his Dreamlands deity form, quit of his “man guise”. Hamilton’s vision of this eldritch creature is inspired and disturbing, evoking Egyptian divinity horridly corrupted by way of the threatening rites of Elder Gods.
This is a chilly thriller that hints of far worse than it shows. That’s just about the perfect tone in a world where every day is Halloween.
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