RAT GOD by Richard Corben (2015) – A retro-review
I read this when it first came out, but when I saw this magnificently grotesque cover on a library shelf, I grabbed it up for a second read.
I’m glad I did. People use the phrase “instant classic” too much, but it’s applicable to RAT GOD- and Richard Corben has been turning out these masterworks for more than forty years.
When Corben first began working for Warren Publishing in the 1970’s, he was already reaching the top of his game : with short masterpieces like “Bright Eyes,” he cemented Warren’s place in American popular culture. In the decades since, he’s never wavered, whether illustrating his own work or the work of others.
RAT GOD is a good example of Corben’s immense talents – and RAT GOD has got it all, presenting a profound story with art powerful enough to evoke real horror and revulsion – and delight – in the reader.
RAT GOD contains all of the conventions of Cthulhu Mythos tales, with Corben offering up novel additions to the Mythos’ lore – and these additions are noteworthy for their originality and their dramatic possibilities. Furthermore, RAT GOD reworks typical Lovecraftian tropes to demonstrate that 1930’s New England is itself the true horror, where the pretense of decency hides the truly loathsome and all too real evils of all-American racism, nativism, and class privilege. Of course, Lovecraft’s xenophobia and assorted prejudices have always been common knowledge, and it’s become fashionable to use Lovecraft pastiche as a way of taking him to task. However, Corben is never preachy about his message here – he’s far too good at what he does for that ; he’s sincere about his message, sure, but he uses a scalpel where many people use a sledgehammer. In any case, RAT GOD is more than pastiche; Corben’s aforementioned additions to the Mythos’ lore are deep enough that they amount to minor world-building.
Ah, but with a Corben title, it’s all about the art- and this book is no different. In RAT GOD, readers find everything that makes Corben’s work so amazing: the inventive production design, the dynamic frame composition, the eye-pleasing variety in layout, the sophisticated use of symbol, the carefully paced reveals, and a host of other techniques all work together to make RAT GOD a joy to read.
Put all of this together, and you’ve got yourself one great book.
I recommend it unreservedly.
Please note that I’ve only seen Dark Horse Books’ nicely printed hardcover, so I can’t speak to the quality of digital editions.