fall_cthulhuPh’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”

Since the 1928 publication of “The Call of Cthulhu” in Weird Tales, H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos has attracted and enthralled readers, spawning countless additions as author-fans of multiple generations offer their own interpretations and expansions of the realm of the Elder gods and the mysterious cult of the Dark God. In Fall of Cthulhu, Michael Alan Nelson offers his contribution to the Cthulhu mythos, bringing Cthulhu into the twenty-first century to capture new readers and intrigue existing devotees.

Cy Morgan is a student at Miskatonic University, happily engrossed in his studies and planning his future with his fiancé Jordan, until the day his uncle Walt, a Miskatonic professor on sabbatical for research, appears unexpectedly to join them at lunch, and then kills himself in front of a horrified Cy and Jordan. Attempting to understand how a man he loved and admired was driven to such a desperate act draws Cy deep into a hidden occult world, one in which mysteries and plots are nuanced and layered, one that may destroy him and all he holds dear. From a fantastical knife with watchful eyes to a false priest who serves darkness to the mysterious landlord of the Arkham Boardinghouse where Walt rented a room, events seem to conspire to draw Cy further from his comfortable reality into this strange underworld—a world of dark things and darker plans, a world in which madness is as close to a happy ending as it may be possible to get.

Nelson’s epic revolves around Cy as the reader journeys from modern Arkham, Massachusetts, to ancient Babylon, the island of Atlantis, and the sunken city of R’lyeh, as well as the other worlds of the Dreamlands and the domains of gods and monsters alike, as an intricate plot unfolds and gods battle gods for control of the waking world and the Dreamlands. Other key figures emerge: Sheriff Raymond Dirk, a good man whose legacy is the protection of the city of Arkham but who may not be able to stand against the forces threatening his city; Lucifer, a mysterious young woman of uncertain origin, a devoted friend and aide to the late Walt McKinley whose skills for theft and subterfuge may be part of humanity’s only hope; Nodens the Hunter, an elder god who seeks to raise Cthulhu from his sleep to be the focus of his greatest hunt, unaware the he is himself merely bait; the Harlot, the mysterious denizen of the Dreamlands who knows the secrets of all things and can answer your questions for a price; and Nyarlathotep—the Black Pharaoh, the Crawling Chaos—the dark god whose desire is to see humanity fall into the destruction of madness. Together, these players will act out a drama on the stage of the world, each piece merely a bit of the story until the god war is done and the victors declared, if there can be victors. Through six stories within the larger arc, Nelson weaves a tale of heroes, monsters, hope, and madness, where men and gods must battle on multiple fronts to decide the fate of all living things.

Fall of Cthulhu is a brilliant addition to the Cthulhu mythos, a masterwork that captures the essence of Lovecraft’s originals while adding Michael Alan Nelson’s own flair to the worlds of the Elder gods. Nelson captures Lovecraft’s hopeless horror in the face of the Dark Ones, building on Lovecraft’s world and characters while at the same time adding new faces and ideas, including the arresting Lucifer, a fan-favorite from Nelson’s Hexed. Devoted Lovecraft fans will catch numerous allusions to the originals, but new readers can still enjoy the unfolding horrors without that insider knowledge. Working with a number of artists, Nelson crafts a truly Lovecraftian horror epic in which the deeds of gods and man unfurl a tapestry of millennia-long plots, and secret layers are discovered and recovered as players seek to stay ahead in an eternal game of king of the hill. Monsters give birth to unholy offspring, a disembodied brain complete with attached eyes waits in a jar to be rejoined to its body someday, and bloody sacrifices are offered on infernal alters in homage to dark gods. The art draws the reader deeper into Nelson’s vision of these twisted worlds, never allowing the mind to hide from the terrors being unleashed as the story builds to a climactic battle between the worshippers and servants of the Dark Ones.

This omnibus edition collects twenty-seven issues of Nelson’s Cthulhu cycle in one massive volume, allowing the reader to experience the story in an unbroken arc from beginning to climax and unexpected denouement. Fall of Cthulhu is intended for mature readers, and it is probably best suited for adult collections. Some readers, particularly those unfamiliar with the Cthulhu mythos, may be troubled by the occult nature of the work. A number of the Elder gods are named and worshipped, often with bloody rites. Sacrifices, both animal and human, occur numerous times. The story also includes multiple suicides, sexual situations, child death, strong language, and death by dismemberment. The story is dark, and even the heroes of the piece cannot be seen as truly virtuous figures. But, for existing Cthulhu afficiandos or fans of horror or supernatural graphic novels, Fall of Cthulhu is a chilling and delicious read, one that captures the dark imagination and makes you want to check under your bed at night before you fall into a fitful sleep filled with terrifying dreams.

Fall of Cthulhu
by Michael Alan Nelson
Art by Kevin Sharpe
ISBN: 9781608864041
Boom!, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

  • Beth Rogers

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Beth Rogers is Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Outreach at the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she has worked to introduce and develop the library’s graphic novel collection. Also a part-time lecturer in English, Beth has taught courses on graphic novels for college students, lead book discussions on graphic novels including Watchmen and American-Born Chinese, and guest lectured on superheroes in American culture. She also maintains a book review blog, Do I Wanna Read THAT?!?!? When she’s not working, Beth enjoys action movies, knitting wee Avengers, and spoiling her dog.

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