|The Case of Charles Dexter Ward|
by INJ Culbard, based on the story by HP Lovecraft
But something is lost in translation - much of the thrill of Lovecraft is in interpreting his descriptions of things ancient and evil and so completely other. When you read Lovecraft, you get to sense the utterly alien in every conceivable way, the very profound wrongness of the proceedings, something few authors before or since have ever achieved. By adapting the work, you lose that thrill of mystery because it is made literal on the page before you. Just like the movie is rarely better than the book or comic, so here the comic is not (quite possibly can not be?) better than the original. At least that's the sense I get here, one of slight dissatisfaction rather than profound vicarious disturbance. Culbard has also adapted Lovecraft's masterpiece At The Mountains of Madness for SelfMadeHero... While I haven't read his adaptation - so perhaps this is unfair - I cannot imagine how it can possibly work. When Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil set Nemo: Heart of Ice, essentially in and around At The Mountains of Madness, they at first focus on the terror in their eyes and faces rather than the horrors they see. And when those horrors do show up, an artist with O'Neil's sensibilities does a remarkable job of illustrating them, but even he cannot match up to the picture painted in the mind's eye. The characters have experienced horrors beyond the human capability to even understand, and that's the key to Lovecraft: you cannot possibly translate those horrors, and Culbard understandably falls short in Charles Dexter Ward.
(Another observation about the work: Culbard's art, in places, looks exactly like Guy Davis's - not Davis-influenced, but almost as if Davis himself illustrated some pages in places. Guy Davis is a damn fine artist and an appropriate influence for the subject matter, especially considering Davis's deep catalog of Lovecraft-influenced storytelling in BPRD, but the similarities in places here, which I did not see in New Deadwardians, were quite striking. I am not remotely saying that Culbard cribbed Davis by any means, just that the influence is definitely showing.)
Lovecraft's unique and timeless horror tales have inspired artists and writers for generations now, and will continue to do so. And sometimes as an artist you need to work through your influences to develop your own voice, just as Culbard is working through both Lovecraft and (seemingly) Davis in this work. Depsite its obvious qualities, Culbard's Case of Charles Dexter Ward doesn't quite hold up, though the attempt is certainly admirable and well-made. I just can't quite recommend it.