An admirable and mostly successful attempt at creating a true Lovecraftian tale for all ages.

Writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer team up with artist Erin Humiston to bring an all ages coming of age tale steeped in the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

The Plot

From Dark Horse:

Being a teenager isn’t easy especially after you learn you carry the bloodline of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones in your veins. Instead of a summer job and checking out colleges, Calla Tafali finds herself battling supernatural monsters, human assassins, and her uncle, the King in Yellow. She must resist his call to embrace her own chaotic heritage and join the family business, as well as prevent the awakening of the terrible deity asleep and dreaming in the corpse city of R’lyehthe Dread Dead One! Prepare yourself for weird action, adventure, and mystery in the Mighty Mythos Manner!

From me:

Calla also has to fight a sewer monster, Hastur’s Jedi-temple-guard-looking minions, a badass carnivorous earthworm, two highly capable assassins, zombies (of course), an eldritch deity that embodies both filth and despair, a house that may or may not want to kill her, and basic teenage anxiety…

…and she also has an adorable little monster pet named Glub.

What Works

Maybe this is just my experience, but whenever I see a comic/book claiming to be an all-ages Lovecraftian adventure, it’s either:

A.) Ironically claiming the all-ages title while still telling a very adult tale.
B.) It uses Lovecraft’s mythos and monsters in a way that is not at all consistent with the themes, essentially just turning them into squishy, tangible monsters.

Calla Cthulhu, however, makes an admirable and mostly successful attempt at a true all-ages Lovecraft read. There are TONS of mythos easter eggs for the most devoted Lovecraft fans intertwined inside an easily accessible and exciting story. Even elements like cosmic/existential dread are played with a deft hand, driving a plot that would be fascinating and fun no matter what age the reader is.

Dorkin and Dyer also make Calla herself an exceptionally likable character. She may be a total badass infused with eldritch energy, but she’s also a very relatable teenager. Her supporting cast ends up being good, too. A couple of the early interactions between them feel strained, but once things settle in, it’s a lot of fun to read.

The artwork by Eric Humiston is also fantastic, particularly when the poop starts hitting the proverbial cosmic fan near the end of the book.

Unfortunately, the art (and its direction) are also where the book’s main issues begin.

What Doesn’t

One thing that has always bugged me about comics made for kids–even when I was kid myself–is how sparse the paneling often is. Maybe it’s done that way based on the assumption that kids won’t stick with things that have too much packed into one page (although if you ever look at a kid’s iPad when he/she’s playing on it, I think you’ll agree that wouldn’t be an issue).

In the first act of Calla Cthulhu, we’re treated to what should be an incredible fight sequence that is marred by too many splash pages and giant panels. It’s like someone shouting at you nonstop for five minutes straight–definitely gets your attention at first, but easy to tune out after a while.

The paneling gets denser as the book moves on, but there are some really cool big moments in the story that are numbed quite a bit by all the widescreen scale shots surrounding it.

Also, the groundwork for a highly intriguing story is laid before being brought to a grinding, almost jarring halt. I understand that Dorkin/Dyer can’t tie up every loose end by the last page, but it still felt as though we were missing out on the type of narrative payoff you’d expect for a book this large.

The Verdict

All that being said, I think this was a simply a case of a great concept taking a wobbly first step.

Was Calla Cthulhu as good as I’d hoped it would be (especially with this creative team)? No.

Was it bad? Absolutely not.

Would I want to keep reading about this characters and see the creative teams’ ideas come to fruition? Hell yes.

And if I did have kids (thank goodness I don’t, right?), I’d be excited to give them this as an accessible gateway to Lovecraft’s literary universe–or just a good and fun comic for them to enjoy.

Calla Cthulhu
Is it good?
An admirable and mostly successful attempt at creating a true Lovecraftian tale for all ages.
Calla is a great main character--equal parts likable, relatable, and badass.
Plenty of mythos easter eggs for the most devoted Lovecraft fan...and lots of fights against tentacled monstrosities.
The artwork is superb, particularly in the fight sequences...
...unfortunately, sparse paneling and an overabundance of wide shots/splash pages make the story feel too loud and ruin many of what should have been big moments.
Just when the story gets started, it abruptly ends.