‘Casefile: Arkham’ – Graphic Novel Review

H.P. Lovecraft's stories continue to influence contemporary tales. For instance, the 1926 short story, “Pickman's Model,” published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales, is one such tale that recently inspired Casefile: Arkham. This new graphic novel is written by Josh Finney, illustrated by artist Patrick McEvoy, edited by Kat Rocha, and published by 01Publishing. The black-and-white edition is an enthralling visual experience that incorporates several elements of the Lovecraft story and evolves into its own fascinating tale of noir macabre.

Finney pushes Casefile: Arkham forward by twenty years into a post-World War II noir setting. The protagonist, Henry Flynn, is a hardboiled private investigator who lands a case to find the missing artist Richard Pickman. The time period is conducive for including an intriguing layer to the detective suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and Flynn's struggle to remain sane as he slips further into Pickman's world. May Derlith (a nod to August Derlith) is the blonde femme fatale that oozes sex appeal as her Pickman paintings ooze fear and horror. Glynda, the sexy bookworm and witch that plays sidekick and guardian angel to Henry, juxtapose the two main female leads in the detective's life. Pickman looks like Richard Lynch and Health Ledger's Joker cross-over and is disturbing on all of the right levels. There are several other characters and each add additional layers of complexity to Finney's noir tale.

McEvoy's black-and-white illustrations are an entrancing visual experience. For instance, he sets apart the Pickman paintings by utilizing an altogether different technique from the rest of the graphic novel. The slimy look of the paintings blends animals and aliens; the images are fearsome and nightmarish. McEvoy has a real eye for noir and horror, so Casefile: Arkham is the perfect vehicle for him to showcase his artistic abilities. The cityscapes hearken back to the German Expressionism movement of the 1920s and blend into the stark, modernist noir style. The textures and shadows add depth and complement the characters and the events. The format of the panels, speech bubbles, and lettering works well and does not detract from the action. The bigger spreads balance nicely with pages of several panels.

If there is anything that could be improved, then it would be around two scenes. First, I would recommend adding some follow up to Flynn's wartime flashback since there are important implications to that scene. Something happened to Flynn while at war, but that subplot feels dropped. It almost seemed as though Finney was hinting at something similar to the narrative device in Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth, in which the protagonist discovers years later that he is a frog man. The second scene is when Flynn runs into the henchmen that morph into Dagon-looking creatures. It felt a little bit forced; the men could have remained human henchmen and the story would have been smoother in that chapter.

Casefile: Arkham is an absorbing, Lovecraft-inspired tale that incorporates the events from “Pickman's Model.” While the myriad of nods to the source material and the writer's other stories are fun, the marriage of noir in a post-war environment works exceedingly well. The Finney and McEvoy collaboration hits the mark with Casefile: Arkham. One hopes that we'll see Flynn and Glynda again or, alternatively, more Lovecraft-inspired tales from this creative team in the future.

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 April 2016 15:48

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