My local Friendly Local Comic Store does a regular Boxing Day special, discounts on back issues and selling the trades at the US$ prices (about a 20% discount) so a pretty good deal. When possible, I try to get there with list in hand to fill in those gaps in my collection and the try out some titles.
One of those titles this time was Miskatonic.
Two controversial figures of the 1920s – H.P. Lovecraft who created a genre and influenced the first of many generations of horror writers and J. Edgar Hoover who shaped the the modern FBI and instigated policies of blackmail and targeted raids that furthered essentially a personal agenda. Writer Mark Sable took these two and mashed them up into a federal agent finding herself neck deep in the threat of the Mythos.
The Lovecraftian Easter eggs are many, enough that there is an appendix of annotations in the back of the trade. You may find this to be a good thing or you might not. Name drops include Herbert West, Dr. Armitage, the Whately family, Edward Pickman Derby, and more. It isn’t subtle. They tie into the story but personally, I feel like they didn’t need to bring all of them in. I still enjoyed it and I am more likely to read more, something I could not say about Alan Moore’s Neonomicon (more about the content than the sprawling story).
I would call the art fairly standard, good but nothing really exceptional that really brings out the genre. Still, it was clean and crisp unlike some other darkness drenched muddy art found in some Lovecraft adaptations. The colorist Pippa Bowland adds a good depth to the pages. There are a few points in the story where things get disjointed in time and transitions. Overall, still the narrative was clear enough to follow and the art does capture a few scenes nicely.
In following up on the series I was introduced to Aftershock Comics and a few more titles to check out. There’s a one shot, Miskatonic: Even Death May Die, of the same historical crime / mythos mix that I’ll probably pick up. As a series, the contained mini series or one shots suits it well and could certainly work with a rotating cast of investigators sent on assignments.
For the Gamer Eye
The set up of an unofficial FBI investigation of un-American activities would work great for a Delta Green or Call of Cthulhu game. It provides a quest giver, a reason for the party to stick together, and justification for the party not to call the police if their boss has told them to keep it on the QT. The leads are an detective who left the force after a mythos encounter, a woman attempting to prove herself to the FBI, and an academic for the ever important library use (technically in the story, this is Dr. Armitage but this could as easily been a PC). The scale is a local mystery and personal horror, not the fate of the world, so well suited for a one shot.
Using a handful of Lovecraft stock characters like Herbert West and Dr. Armitage can be pretty common as a nod to the source material but I’d rather keep them to the background and just name drop them. It’s one thing in a Star Wars game to be part of the attack on the Death Star and quite a different one to meet and team up with Luke Skywalker. One of the guilty pleasures of a Call of Cthulhu game can be digging deep into the historical background and this mini-series does that well.
This sticks close to the skilled normals power level that fits most Call of Cthulhu games, compared to the more pulp oriented games that would fit FATE or 2D20 systems.