At the Mountains of Madness was written by Lovecraft in early 1931 and recounts a disastrous expedition in Antarctica in the autumn of 1930. As with many of Lovecraft’s tales, our educated narrator this time is geologist and Miskatonic University professor, William Dyer. In the first volume (See my review here.), one of the explorers (by the name of Lake) takes some of the men with him as they search farther south for prehistoric proof that the continent once had a tropical climate; however, Dyer loses contact with Lake, so he takes a group to find Lake and eventually finds a gruesome scene amongst unusual-looking rocks. One of Lake’s men is discovered to be missing in the closing pages, and volume two picks up with Dyer and a graduate student named Danforth taking off in an airplane to find the missing man. Their flight path leads them to a massive abandoned city of stone buildings featuring mysterious architecture not found before in any human civilization. Dyer and Danforth find murals in one of the buildings that collaborate with the mythology recorded in the Necronomicon, specifically the Elder Things, the shoggoths, the Mi-go, and the spawn of Cthulhu. At turns, the men are fascinated by the findings but also have a sense of foreboding; in the closing pages, they find not only their colleague, but so much more.
As with the first volume, Tanabe proves how skilled he is with interpreting Lovecraft’s cosmic horror. His sweeping polar locales are desolate and otherworldly, often evoking the alienating tension that defines so much of Lovecraft’s world. There is often excellent build-up of anxiety, trepidation, and intrigue when turning the volume’s pages, leading to epic two-page spreads of lonely mountaintops and an eerie prehistoric stone city. Tanabe’s illustration skills and use of intricate texturing are superb and lend well to the cosmic horror genre. Readers easily become companions to Dyer and Danforth as our protagonists explore the alien city, feeling both the fascination of discovery and the taunt stress of the unknown. Tanabe brings to life an important Lovecraftian tale that can often be described as overly wordy, resulting in a slowed pacing; however, Tanabe understands the source material well and, as a result, delivers a visually stunning story with improved narrative beats without sacrificing the genius of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror formula.
Zack Davisson (translator), Steve Dutro (letterer/touchup artist), and Carl Gustav Horn (editor) return and round out the creative team supporting Tanabe. Each brilliantly lends their skills to the finished product in a seamless way that does not call attention to itself. In the first volume, I mentioned difficulties with the overlay of text onto the detailed textures that hindered reading; however, that is not the case in this volume. Everyone on the team brought their A-game.
As with the first volume, the visuals are absolutely stunning and are reminiscent of master artists Bernie Wrightson and Gustave Doré. Tanabe’s adaptations provide an excellent entry point for new readers of Lovecraft because of his ability to remain faithful and complementary to the source material. Fans of manga, Lovecraft, and Tanabe will not be disappointed by this latest volume, proving it is worth every penny and then some!
Creative Team: Gou Tanabe (adaptation and artwork); Zack Davisson (translation); Steve Dutro (letters/touch-up); and Carl Gustav Horn (editor).
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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