For parents who are looking for ways to introduce their children to Lovecraft’s mythos, it can be a very difficult ordeal. Beyond the fact that the books deal with mind destroying gods and other horrors that are generally not all ages appropriate, the stories are filled with an incredible amount of hate and fear from H.P. Lovecraft towards women, minorities and religious groups. So when I came across Arcane Secrets: The Curse of the Mottled Tentacle #1 by Angel A. Svoboda from Amigo Press I had high hopes. It was a cartoony looking book with art that made everything look fun. Unfortunately the book is plagued with a bigger curse than that of any of those suffered by Lovecraft’s protagonists.
The story splits in two between following Doctor Balthazar Ment and Henry “Harry” Callahan as they face off the evil forces of Salvatore Tamontti, mob affiliated servant of the Grand Xulu and his various minions including the new and mysterious Mr. Fisher. The battle between the two though is rather confusing and hard to follow.
One of the major issues with the book was the translation work. Originally, the book was written in Spanish, and the very clunky translation job robs it of the energy, making it so that about 3/4 of the way through the book I stopped being able to read it. I am a person who has a strong degree of readable fortitude so being unable to complete the book is saying something. The dialogue lacks any tone to it. The writing makes slapstick jokes fail and that is a great and heinous sin for any all ages comic. There is a lack of any distinction to the individual voices and the writing is the biggest flaw because every other part of the book is solid. I could keep on complaining till the hounds of Tindalos come in but I’ve made my point.
The artwork itself, by Angel A Svoboda, is really excellent. It reminds me of John Kovalic’s work on Dork Tower and the Munchkin games where Kovalic created and parodied most of the Lovecraftian horrors, especially in Munchkin Cthullhu. The characters are cartoony and cuddly, despite most of them being partially mutated, and the approach to the Lovecraftian horrors are well thought out. Really, the art is excellent for an all ages title like this. The coloring is also well done and the book just generally works artistically – but once again the writing holds it back from working.
Arcane Secrets: The Curse of the Mottled Tentacle is an ambitious and possibly excellent book hurt by very poor translation issues that make it a slog to read. While I’d like to recommend it for the art alone, the lack of energy in the dialogue makes me recommend that you avoid the book for now like the Elder Gods. If you are looking for a better, though slightly more mature book with Lovecraftian influences, check out Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time instead by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.