Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Infernoct #1

 Halloween Post-A-Day 2020, Day 5

Infernoct #1

 


Repeat after me: Tentacles do not make something Lovecraftian

 

 

Created – Mina Elwell & Eli Powell

Writer – Mina Elwell

Artist – Eli Powell

Color – Tristan Elwell

Letterer – Marshall Dillon

Editor– James Pruett

October 2017

 

There is no end to people who love-love-love LOVE! HP Lovecraft these days. Or at least profess to love him. Cthulhu stuffies, millions of t-shirts, games, statues, beers, bars, menu items…you name it, HP Lovecraft and his mental progeny have most likely infiltrated it.

 

That’s good and bad, as I think I’ve said before. It is easy to get caught up in the gloss of what made Lovecraft’s work unique and miss the actual substance of his works. To make something Lovecraftian you don’t just “add tentacles.” Lovecraft was all about normal people waking up to the realization that the real world was a hellish place where they were actually inconsequential. And not just them in an individual sense, but more of a “humanity is inconsequential.” We don’t matter and we aren’t going to be the winners at the end of this race, so to speak.

 

That’s why so many stories that claim to be “In the tradition of HPL,” as Internoct does, not only miss the bus, but we find they don’t even know the first thing about packing the bag for the trip.

 

Let me put it out there by way of example. Case in point one: Radiohead’s “Just.”

 

This four minute video has more in common with Lovecraft than the entire 20 pages of Infernoct and there is nary a tentacle in sight. Lovecraft was all about there are things we should not know, that if even spoken of, the overwhelming understanding of them would drive us utterly, despondently bonkers.

 

But too often it is tentacles and gore, screaming and mustache-twirling, protagonists that fight back instead of slowly slipping into madness never to return. So…Infernoct:

 

Page one is a simple title splash showing a character with tentacles wrapped around it’s legs coming from unspecified things offscreen. I pay it little mind.


 

But already by pages two and three the book has me worried. We have tentacles and gas masked characters talking to unseen horrors. It still isn’t off the rails, it just doesn’t give the tale a Lovecraft veneer.

 

Turn the page and this opening is forgotten. Here we have Sam, a silent, bad-ass girl who is “trying to turn her life around.” She does so by taking a job as a nighttime caretaker for an older gentleman in a creepy mansion.


But as we will soon see, Sam is a terrible character choice to base a horror premise around. One reviewer called her a “Buffy” which is apt if you remove the beginnings of Buffy where she was vulnerable and relatable. What we have here is buffy six seasons in. She’s jaded, hard as nails and boring when used as a horror protagonist. Especially in a tale that is supposed to have Lovecraftian overtones.

 



The secondary character of the guy she is taking care of fairs a bit better. He sits in a circle of lamps and doesn’t speak, giving the audience time to wonder what his deal is.

 

Given this creepy environment you’d think we would worry about Sam, but we don’t. She hasn’t been built up through dialogue nor visually to be someone we think of as vulnerable. This opening hinges on us believing Sam is relatable or empathic. She just IS and we are long to see what happens to her.

 



Night two comes and our old guy is dressed in the gas mask from the start of the book, so maybe that is the connection to that cold open. Appears he’s been visiting the tentacled old one shown to have engulfed that building’s basement. Okay, mystery solved. Everyone can go home now.

 



Sam puts him to bed and he mouths “bye” and this is a major revelation. Or something.

 

Sam meanwhile is rethinking this, but it appears to be from boredom NOT from creeping existential dread. Man this book is even missing the EASY targets.

 



Then she comes back to find a giant lamprey with weird tentacles latched on to the guy and sucking his blood.

 

So she casually scares it away with the lamp. On purpose. Because that’s what you do in those situations.

 


Let me be clear here: I could give two shits about Sam as character at this point. She isn’t in danger, doesn’t act like she is in danger, she has no fear or fear reaction when weird things happen…this is exactly the opposite of horror. And it bores me.

 

Even when the lamprey touches her and she has a weird green vision, I am bored.

 

And when she does in the lamprey with no effort and NO fear of the thing and the old guy starts talking…I just can’t muster any dread or worry.

 


The final panel really clenches it, however. The old man is going to be her mentor (like in Buffy) and she is going to get rid of monsters (like in Buffy) but the monsters are tentacle horrors instead of vampires.

 


*sigh*. Four issues and they have been traded, but it is a skip from me. Also take any mention of Lovecraft off this thing. It ISN’T Lovecraftian.

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