Only the End of the World Again was originally a serialized fantasy story written by Neil Gaiman and published in 1998. It is a mash-up of the classic Universal werewolf character Lawrence Talbert, HP Lovecraft’s town of Innsmouth, and a book titled A Night in The Lonesome October written by Roger Zelazny.
The story starts out in the dead of winter in Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Talbot wakes up one morning with a werewolf hangover. He gets sick and throws up a dog’s paw as well as some children’s fingers and immediately realizes what transpired the night before. He cleans himself up then makes his way to his office. When he gets there, a fat man is slouching in the chair by the window. The man speaks about the Deep Ones being raised from the depths of the sea cleansing the drylands of the filth that inhabits it. Lawrence asks the fat man to leave then notices the neon sign of the psychic across the street. He heads over to Madame Ezekiel’s and she reads his tarot. She draws the card of the werewolf then draws a card with the Deep Ones and explains that sacrifices need to be made for them to rise. She then draws a blank card and another and yet another. This upsets her and she accuses Talbot of messing up her cards and tells him to leave. Talbert heads to the bar down the street for a shot. The bartender pours him his shot then grabs a book and proceeds to read passages out of it about how when the moon and the stars are in the right position and with a worthy sacrifice, the Deep Ones can be summoned.
He points out the window to a bonfire raging on the cliffside just outside of town and offers to take Talbot there. The two men walk to the edge of the cliff to the bonfire where they encounter the fat man and Madame Ezekiel. It is in this moment that Talbot understands why he was brought here and the role that they intend for him to play in conjuring the Deep Ones. Madame Ezekiel reaches out with a dagger and slits Talbot’s throat, causing him to transform into the werewolf. The monster attacks the psychic killing her. This upsets the bartender and he picks the dagger up off the ground and runs at the werewolf, missing him and falling to his death on the rocks below. The story ends with the fat man telling the beast that he has stopped the end of the world this time, since it takes three to call forth the Deep Ones. Talbot wakes up disoriented the following morning next to a carcass of a deer that he killed in the night. As he heads back to town naked, cold, and covered in blood, a hawk flies over and drops a squid on the snowy ground at his feet. Talbot sees this as an omen.
Neil Gaiman wrote these stories originally as a tribute to Roger Zelazny, and they were adapted for comic book by P Craig Russell. Although the story is rather short, Gaiman does not fail to deliver a story that’s rich and descriptive. The way he writes the look and the smells of this small New England fishing town makes the reader feel like they’re standing there with the cold bitter chill of winter on their breath. Gaiman’s love for HP Lovecraft is evident in this work and there is a creepiness in the way that all of the townsfolk act towards Talbot.
The artwork has a very twisted, almost demented feel. Troy Nixey does a really fantastic job with the atmosphere of Innsmouth. Talbot transforming into the werewolf and fighting Madam Ezekiel down in the depths of the sea are drawn so brilliantly. Nixey also does a wonderful job on a lot of the smaller details that are very Lovecraftian, such as tentacles and creepy slithery things that go bump in the night just off in the background of the frame. The human characters do tend to look a bit goofy and misshapen at times. Matthew Hollingsworth’s use of color on this title complements the artwork very well. The dark, drab tones that he uses on Innsmouth capture the cold, isolated loneliness of the town, while the bright vibrant use of color for some of the more intense moments really set the tone and contrast the situations.
This is a very short piece of work but there’s a lot of substance within its 54 pages. The entire collection is 154 pages, with the last 100 pages being side by side page-by-page comparisons of the pencil layouts and final drawings. Hardcore collectors or fans of Troy Nixey may really enjoy those quite a bit, but if you are expecting a 154 page story, you’re only going to get a third of that.
Overall this is a wonderful comic book from Gaiman and Nixey, two masters in the realm of comics, and it is more than worthy of this Dark Horse reissue.