Monday, February 02, 2009

Manga Monday: Arkham Woods

Christopher Rowley & Jhomar Soriano

Arkham Woods is a new manga from Seven Seas, illustrated by Jhomar Soriano and written by revered science fiction author Christopher Rowley. This horror manga follows LA teen Kristi Rivers, who has recently moved to Arkham Woods, a little New England town, to help her mother renovate and sell the house bequeathed to them by Kristi's strange uncle. Together with a few friends, Kristi begins to uncover things in the recesses of the house that are quite disturbing. This book really does a great job of creating a real creeping dread in the first half of the story as Kristi finds a ring of keys and searches the house for what they belong to, eventually noticing a little door hidden away behind odds and ends in the attic. One of the keys unlocks the door, which contains several boxes, easily opened by the other keys on the ring. What's inside is unsettling. There are headless human skeletons in the big chests, and in smaller boxes, they find the skeltons' heads locked up separately. And they aren't quite as human as they at first imagined. Shortly thereafter, the teenagers find scratches on the basement floor that resemble swastikas. Very eerie stuff and played out with a lot of tension. I really, really loved the first half of this book, but then things begin to be explained, and it all takes a turn toward silly, as Cthulhu is being raised and people start to get possessed, etc. It's really too bad that the scariness of the book was undercut, but I still enjoyed the story overall. Christopher Rowley's inspiration for the whole story was H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, which is kind of unfortunate, since that's where the story heads when it starts to get off-track, but perhaps we would never have gotten those fantastic opening chapters without that latter material that Rowley built the story around. Soriano's art is really nice throughout, very clear with the exception of a few messy action scenes, with some really neat designs for big bulky monsters toward the end of the book. I would definitely recommend this book just because that opening half is so strong, and I'm sure some people will appreciate the ending more than I did. Overall, this is a fun horror manga with a great original story.

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