The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

A tale of intrigue, mystery and the macabre, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward is masterfully adapted by I.N.J. Culbard into a compelling read.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward cover

Providence, Rhode Island, 1928. A dangerous inmate disappears from a private hospital for the insane, his method of escape baffling the authorities. Only the patient’s final visitor, family physician Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett holds the key to unlocking the case of Charles Dexter Ward.

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At its heart, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward is a look at where curiosity and obsession meld, and the lengths one will go to find answers that are best left a mystery. The story opens with the escape of Charles Dexter Ward from an institution, then the questioning of his last visitor, Dr. Marinus Willett. Dr. Willett proceeds to share his tale of Charles and his odd behaviour as he looked into the history of a mysterious ancestor. That search leads him into the dark arts and that oh so “Lovecraft” style of story and turn of the century horror.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward interior 1

The hook for me is the horror of what can be within a person. Yes, we see some Lovecraft creatures but they don’t translate well as a visual image, ending up silly looking. The horror in this story is in the eyes, the smile and the chillingly innocent dialogue that centres around Ward. I didn’t read Lovecraft’s novel so I can’t compare this to the original, but I can say this is a complete and excellent story with developed characters and intriguing dialogue. A well-done piece of fiction.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward interior 2

Culbard’s art is clean, detailed and has a slightly rounded take. He effectively creates mood, atmosphere and emotion throughout. I enjoyed his take on page arrangement and layout, such as the page above. Of the mirror image of our two characters in the last panel below. Or how our villain never reveals his past face, but that insidious smile shines through. It’s a deft touch and a keen artistic sense of what can be done in a graphic novel.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward interior 3

Production of this volume is top-notch: thick sturdy paper, even thicker cardstock cover, stitched pages. No extras, but an introduction to the work on the cover leaf and a short biography of Culbard. The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward is a shining example of what the graphic novel genre has to offer.

Originally published at Comic Book Daily.