I.N.J. Culbard’s graphic adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is his second, following 2012’s At the Mountains of Madness. Culbard walks us through the process of retelling Lovecraft, while still retaining the author’s trademark style and mood.
The book opens in space. We see a crescent of light. It is the earth, small against the dark ocean. And then, as we turn the page, we zoom in closer and closer to the personal level, to the heart of the story—a scene in which Charles Dexter Ward has seemingly escaped his room at an asylum.
One of the key things about adapting Lovecraft is the sense of scale. Lovecraft writes about cosmic horror, the horrors of the universe, which are far, far greater than us. We are small and we are insignificant, and yet Lovecraft manages to make those horrors significant to us. He writes about understanding, the lack thereof, and the horror in the darkness of our own benighted ignorance—things beyond our comprehension and beyond our control.
Lovecraft’s protagonists are often detached individuals, and there is an ever-present sense of fragility and futility. Minds aren’t able to correlate the secrets of the universe, there are a great many questions that go unanswered, and people go insane in their pursuit of forbidden knowledge.
With The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft brings the cosmic right down to a very human and intimate level. The story begins with something as horrifyingly simple as a change of behavior, a change of personality. And that change of personality is just scratching the surface of much bigger horrors.
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