Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Let's say HP Lovecraft was born around 1980 and was a big Elmore Leonard and Justified fan, read comics and Stephen King, loved punk music and southern rock. Well, maybe not that last. But posit all that and Lovecraft might well have written something a lot like North 40—an entertaining update of Cthulu for redneck America in the 21st century.

In Conover County, somewhere in America's Dukedom of Hazard, a book is opened by slackers in the town library and with it opens a hole and threatens to await one of those evil sleeping things that horror fiction couldn't die without. Meanwhile, half the county's people are transformed, given strange powers and, some, even stranger appetites, and all this with the big dance at the high school about to happen.

Scripter Aaron Williams not only keeps the action moving, he actually makes all of this make sense, progress in a fashion which never asks us to suspend our disbelief. Like King, he works the inequities and battles of mundane life into the supernatural creatures these people become, and like Lovecraft he imbues his hidden monster with exactly the kind of hidden fears and desires that drive horror, that make Lovecraft, for all his baroque eccentricity, still scary after all these years.

The art, by Fiona Staples, complements the script perfectly; her creatures are inventive and well realised, and always remind us of the people they once were. The sense of this evil merely being an extension of real life is palpable in the art, which is why the story works so well. That its apocalyptic finish is confined to Conover County is a lesson in restraint, but the setting up of a sequel is welcome. This is one of the most engaging comics I've seen in a long time.

North 40 by Aaron Williams art by Fiona Staples
Titan/DC Wildstorm £14.99 ISBN 9780857680501

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