While H.P. Lovecraft himself neve wrote any pulpy noir detective stories, that genre and Lovecraft’s own weird world of the Cthulhu Mythos goes very well together. Like chocolate and peanut butter, the two separate things make each other better when combined. This isn’t a new idea, and has been done before in various mediums such as fiction, film, and even video games. Three cheers for it coming to comic books in such grand style with Casefile: Arkham, a new graphic novel from writer Josh Finney and artist Patrick McEvoy and publisher 01 Publishing. Casefile: Arkham has a subtitle, “Nightmare on the Canvas,” and without getting too far ahead of myself, I do hope it’s the first of many such files we get to experience. But back to the case at hand.
The story takes place, naturally, in HPL’s ghost haunted Arkham, in the pulpiest of noir eras, the 1940s. A hardboiled PI with the appropriately tough guy name of Henry Flynn is hired by a beautiful and rich widow (again, naturally) to locate a missing artist by the name of Richard Pickman. If you are at all familiar with the stories of Lovecraft, then that last name should be sending up all sorts of red flags. And as you can tell just from this very brief synopsis, all the noir boxes have been checked here, but I honestly would have it any other way.
As the investigation progresses, our hero Flynn seeks help from a pretty dame that can cast a mean spell or two, gets tangled up with a serial killer case, and even bumps into the local mob. Then there are the less mundane, and far less human, elements that I won’t spoil here. But again, if the name Pickman means anything to you, you’ll have some idea of what’s in this world, lurking in the darkness.
The story here, while playing with the clichés of the genre, is engaging and enjoyable. The characters are well developed, especially World War II vet, Henry Flynn, who is haunted by more than the usual tentacle-waving horrors you would expect to find in Arkham. As for those Cthulhu Mythos/Lovecraftian elements, they are well utilized here. There are one or to blatant namedrops that seem to exist only to make fans of the man from Providence smile, but there are subtle elements too, and the majority of them do add to the story in very meaningful ways.
The art is wonderful. I love B&W comic art when it is this detailed, refined, and beautiful. And for this kind of story, there is no way color should have been used. That would have ruined everything. Artist Patrick McEvoy expertly captures the mood and feel of film noir, and the horror and oh my good weirdness of a Lovecraft tale. The art is as impressive as it is disturbing, and this book is worth getting even if you never read a single word of it.
This is the good stuff, folks. Fans of Lovecraft will love this. Fans of tough PI mysteries will love this. Fans of both, like me, will go crazy for it. I highly recommend Casefile: Arkham – Nightmare on the Canvas, and eagerly look forward to what comes next in this series.
Availble on Amazon.