The hills around Derbyshire are rolling idylls, blighted only by their irritating habit of spending too much time shrouded in rain. But they’re also deeply soaked in magic and mythology, which has drawn mystics and storytellers to the area for generations. First published in single-comic form in the mid-1990s, The Lords of Misrule is woven into the fabric of this local legend, albeit twisted into a tale of fantasy horror.
Centre point of the story is the small town of Callow, based on the real town of Castleton. Perched in the hills on the road between Sheffield and Manchester, Callow draws Jack Goodfellow back to its fetid bosom, through a series of violent occurrences. We soon find out there’s more to this than meets the eye, as an ancient race of subterranean creatures – the Sidh, also known as the Lords of Misrule – make their bloody mark on the local community. Their leader, Blue John (named after a local semi-precious stone), seems to have set his minions the task of destroying Jack, though why he’s been chosen is only revealed later in the story.
What follows is a hero’s journey of self discovery, as Jack attempts to unearth the root of the chaos and break the cycle of violence that’s engulfing his life. There are a handful of further short stories included in this complete collection, fleshing out the background nicely.
The end result feels a little like a British Lovecraftian horror – based as it is around ancient creatures, with a habit of driving people insane, waging war on humanity. There’s perhaps more gore than Lovecraft fans will be used to, though it’s deftly managed, never going too far over the top but still managing an element of shock value. The painted art is exuberant and stylised, bringing the fantasy of the story down to Earth with a bang.
Horror fans should lap this up – it’s intelligent, sharply written and pleasantly illustrated – presuming, of course, that you like images of psychotic pensioners chopping people up. It remains tightly aligned to its genre though – despite its worth, there’s little here to appeal to those that don’t enjoy the trappings of horror.