I just got myself a copy of a graphic novel called Fall of Cthulhu: The Fugue. If you are unfamiliar with the HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu myhtology, here’s a synopsis, free of charge.

The universe is populated by monstrous, unstoppable alien god-beings that drive anyone who has dealings with them into madness or death. In the past, these beings ruled the universe and people were just apes in a petri dish for their amusement, when they thought about us at all. For some reason, the god-beings were all imprisoned and/or put to sleep in forgotten nightmare worlds and locations on earth. Their cultists and minor demon servants live in secret among us, and wait for the day when the beings rise again to show us the true meaning of long lines at the fast checkout lane.

Chtulhu is only one of the “beings” in the mythology, but for convenience’s sake many geeks use the name to describe the general mythology. As in “the world of Cthulhu”.

The story in The Fugue is your typical Cthulhu story:

1. Person encounters mysterious plot.
2. Person investigates mysterious plot.
3. Person tries to stop mysterious plot.
4. Person goes insane or dies hideously.

Sometimes the person in the story escapes to tell the tale, or even manages to foil the plot. But the ending nearly always makes it clear that the unimaginable horrors of the universe are not defeated, only delayed from their eventual awakening to cause havoc and higher electricity bills.

I found the mystery in The Fugue too rushed, and therefore hard to follow. The protagonist plods through the mystery and finds out things by accident. That’s always been the problem, I think, with Cthulhu stories set in the modern age. Writers today don’t have enough faith in the material. They feel the mystery has to be complicated, and the protagonist has to be dragged along because otherwise they’d turn the thing over to the cops or just get killed.

I enjoyed one of the characters known as The Harlot, a ghoulish demigoddess who captures men and puts them into boxes of madness for all eternity (guess how the protagonist ends up…oops, I made boo boo). The interaction between her and the protagonist, even if it was one sided, was the best part.

I find the idea of Cthulhu worth pondering. Unimaginable alien horrors lurking in states of mind now only accessible by means of forgotten rituals and encounters with minor monsters makes great material for stories. The Fugue disappointed me because I expected better.

I started thinking about a scene in The Sandman graphic novels, where Dream (a divine being) tells his sibling Desire in so many words that humans are not playthings to be toyed with. It is the other way around, that they play out their divine roles in the manner of dolls in a dollhouse for humanity’s purposes.

It’s a point of view that can lead rapidly to hubris and self-inflation, which I want to avoid. But I think something that is perhaps missing from the Cthulhu mythology is the most alien and horrific “being” of all – human beings. That the collective will and growing consciousness of humanity is what really pushed the monsters back into their prisons, and all the talk of a “rise of Cthulhu to roam free again” is just wishful thinking on these beings’ parts.

The apocalypse of terror might already have happened – when humanity rose from the depths of it’s own unconscious sunken city and beings like Cthulhu were forced to cage themselves for the amusement of people lest they be snuffed out like the dinosaurs. A few cultists play at being followers of these mad monsters of unimaginable power for the sake of their own unreflected projections, while the rest of us pretend they don’t exist because we like it that way?

Not that the preceding premise of “the elder gods are out there waiting to rise again and get you” is invalidated. But what kind of terrifying secret would it be to find out “Cthulhu is humanity’s favorite action figure in the game of life where everything hurts for real”? What if it’s both?

The Fugue falls far short of evoking anything beyond “some people get jacked at random”. I read this graphic novel and chuckled at the machinations of the Cthulhu monsters to further their plans. I’d like to see the Crawling Chaos’s (human) face when he gets his monthly gasoline card statement. You want horror? Try shopping at Wegman’s without losing your mind.