Alan Moore’s The Courtyard – Alan Moore

3 out of 5

The Courtyard has a similar distance in its tone with the other Antony Johnston-adapted Moore/Lovecraft works, which makes sense, as it was initially part of the Yuggoth set of adaptations from Johnston. It’s just not as inherently layered as when Moore is in charge of his own comics, and there are sudden steerings into dense text that suspectfully read like they’re lifted from the source short story. This is not to say that it’s not a successful move from text to comic, or that Johnston doesn’t do the material justice – there’s a reason this grew into a trilogy of Lovecraft tales – just that there’s a bit of impenetrableness to the tone that prevents the weird terrors into which the story descends from really having the true, Lovecraftian ‘unknown’ sensation.

FBI agent Aldo Sax is using ‘anomalous investigation’ – linking disparate similarities between events – to look in to a string of dismemberment murders. Sax is a vile narrator, shocking the reader from the outset with his racism – a stand-in for Lovecraft’s racism – and further sort of throwing down the gauntlet on the forefrontness of the story by proclaiming that his bosses tolerate his points of view because he’s damn good at his job, and we do kind of believe it, given how quickly he’s able to turn some non-leads he’s lain out for us into a stakeout on a club’s local drugdealer, Johnny Carcosa. The club name, its performers: all reference Lovecraft lore. Sax starts tracking down a new drug – Aklo – and unwittingly takes his first steps’ descent into Cthulu and the whole f’thagan lot.

As a puzzle piece to map into the Neonomicon / Providence puzzle, The Courtyard is very straightforward in comparison, but definitely a useful part of the larger picture. But before we knew of those stories to come, that it allows for a bit more time with its protagonist than in other Yuggoth tales, and easter eggs in a lot of good Lovecraft verbal and visual nods – also rather straightforward compared to what artist Jacen Burrows would later show he was capable of accomplishing, but still some awesome splash panels – made it worth the standalone mini-series treatment. At the same time, because it was initially a standalone gig, it doesn’t have the intended expansiveness of an ongoing narrative; it forms a closed loop.