Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Arts and Lovecrafts

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 30th, 2016

C21st Gods #1
Writer: David Tallerman
Artist/Colors/Letters/Cover artist: Anthony Summey
Editor: Bill Campbell
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing
Price: $1.99 US

I’ve never read any H.P. Lovecraft works, but I feel as though I have, as his work – notably his Cthulhu and ancient gods concepts – is referenced so often in comics and is prominent so often as a key influence on creators. Promotional material for this first issue of a three-part series bills it as a “reimagining” of Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. As I’ve not read the original source material, I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the plot and themes, but I can comment on how it stands up as storytelling in its own right. For a release from a practically unknown small-press publisher, it’s striking in its professionalism. David Tallerman makes some choices with his script that might not be the right ones, but overall, he offers up a compelling mystery, despite some of the cop-drama cliches that are to be found here.

A police detective and his partner respond to an odd scene where they discover a cultist whose committed a grisly ritual murder and sets out to kill again when coming face to face with the cops. The bizarre and gruesome scenario prompts no end of questions in Detective Connor’s mind, and he’s determine to expose a murderous conspiracies, even over the objections of his obstructionist and paranoid commanding officer.

The greatest strength of this comic is the art by Anthony Summey. While I’ve never heard tell of this artist before, he boasts a refined and polished style that strikes me as the work of a seasoned professional, not a newbie who’s starting out with a small-press project. His art reminds me of a cross between the styles of Jerry (The Power of Shazam!) Ordway and Chris (The Twelve) Weston. Summey’s backgrounds are meticulous, and he has a strong eye for anatomy. His main protagonist doesn’t look like a paragon of superhuman physiology; he doesn’t render Connor as a super-hero type, but rather as an average, middle-aged guy. His realistic, detailed art is engrossing, and while the uglier elements are grisly, they’re never gross or over-the-top either.

While I was impressed with the line art, the cover logo poses all kinds of problems for this book. To place it inexplicably at the bottom of the cover will hinder its ability to catch the eye of a potential reader in stores. Furthermore, the logo is difficult to read. “C21st” isn’t a easily readable or natural phrase to be begin with, and the stylistic gap in the letterforms makes it almost unreadable. Furthermore, the use of a squid-god form in the place of an “O” in “Gods” was an incredibly poor choice, because it’s not round enough to substitute for the vowel.

There are a number of elements of this drama that feel overly familiar. The cop’s obsession with the case, his captain’s acerbic and obviously corrupt handling of the case and more strike me as unfortunately cliched. But what makes it work is Connor’s role as an everyman who finds himself in the middle of something that’s anything but ordinary, even for a murder investigation. His outrage and disgust at what he finds are relatable. Furthermore, the creators do an excellent job of conveying a pervasive, unsettling and unnatural atmosphere throughout the issue.

There are a couple of scripting and pacing issues that interfere with the storytelling effort here. Tallerman’s script goes surprisingly silent at times. Connor and his partner’s search of the murder manor is wordless, and it struck me so odd, I wondered if the digital preview the publisher provided me was incomplete. But there’s dialogue to be found later in the issue, so I can only assume the “silence” was intentional. Furthermore, Tallerman’s script doesn’t take the small but necessary steps of naming the characters. We know the protagonist’s name – and that’s it. And even then, it’s only “Connor,” and I don’t know if that’s his first name or surname. Finally, the “montage” scenes of Connor’s continued investigation were lacking context as well, and for a moment, I thought I was looking at preview images from the next issue in the limited series.

That being said, I remained nevertheless impressed with what I found in this small-press endeavor. Both the writer and artist have some solid comics-craft chops. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found here, and even the missteps Tallerman makes weren’t enough to tamp down that feeling. 6/10

Note: This comic is slated for release Nov. 9.

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