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The Shadow out of Time, by H. P. Lovecraft and I. N. J. Culbard

review published on February 3, 2014. Reviewed by Erin Britton

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

1908, Arkham: Professor Nathaniel Peaslee, a happily married father of one with no hint of anything mad or sinister in his family tree, is teaching his class at Miskatonic University when he suffers a crippling seizure of some sort. Although informed that he fell into a stupor from which he would not arise for sixteen and a half hours, the next thing Professor Peaslee actually recalls is waking up in his own house in the company of his family physician, Doctor Wilson. It is 27 September 1913.

Doctor Wilson reveals that a mysterious phone call summoned him to Professor Peaslee’s house that night but he has no explanation for the five years of memories that the Professor seems to be missing. As Professor Peaslee struggles to come to terms with the changes that have occurred in his life and attempts to discover why he has no recollection of what he has been doing for the past few years, he is plagued by unsettling and outlandish nightmares about an ancient alien race and is forced to journey to the very edge of sanity in his attempts to uncover the truth.

The Shadow out of Time is one of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic tales of the weird. Professor Peaslee’s investigations cover vast swathes of time and space as he attempts to discover what happened to him during his five year blackout. In order to delve into the impossible nature of the problem, Professor Peaslee has to branch out from his usual discipline of political economy into far more esoteric areas of study and so becomes embroiled in many of Lovecraft’s signature themes: cosmic revelation, man’s place in the universe, the all-powerful “other” and the horror of madness. As Professor Peaslee nears the truth, he and those close to him become locked in an extraordinary quest for knowledge that could ultimately doom them all.

The Shadow out of Time is a fascinating, disturbing story and I. N. J. Culbard has done an excellent job of adapting it into a graphic novel. Culbard is no stranger to the works of Lovecraft, having previously adapted Lovecraftian works such as At the Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward for SelfMadeHero, and so manages to get the creepy, disorientating tone of the book absolutely right. His artwork is excellent; the characters are drawn in a style reminiscent of classic adventure comics but their faces are extremely expressive. He has used a fairly autumnal colour palate and this really matches the melancholy tone of the story.

Professor Peaslee is arguably one of Lovecraft’s most sympathetic characters – while he chooses to journey towards the dangerous and unimaginable, Peaslee does ultimately retain the desire to do what is best for his son – and Culbard does well to preserve this quality in him. Culbard balances nicely Peaslee’s consuming desire to discover the truth with his more human need to reconnect with his family and old life. The variety of powerful emotions that Professor Peaslee goes through over the course of the story are brought vividly, sometimes painfully to life through Culbard’s art.

Culbard’s powerful adaptation of The Shadow out of Time really captures the spirit of intrigue and adventure that underpins Peaslee’s investigation while leaving more than a hint of doubt as to the reality of the Professor’s findings. Peaslee’s investigation may be lengthy but matters move at a brisk pace for the reader as Culbard highlights the twisting realities and strange beings that the Professor encounters as he draws ever closer to the haunting finale of the story

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