This Arkham Horror Files novella introduces Roland Banks, agent of the Bureau of Investigation on his first assignment to Arkham, Massachusetts. He is rueful from a recent misadventure in law enforcement where he was stymied by local corruption, and it seems like he’s been given a punitive errand in sorting out an explosion and mass-death that has stumped the local police. This story not only details his initial encounter with paranormal monstrosity, but also the degradation of his “Boy Scout” ethic, along with his first active involvement in a cover-up.
Fittingly, the tone of this narrative is more X-Files than HPL. Settings range from the Arkham woods to the Nightingale Club speakeasy to the Miskatonic University campus to a patient visit at the Arkham Asylum. Other regular characters from the Arkham Files featured in the tale include Leo De Luca and Professor Warren Rice. The illustrated end-matter consists of handwritten correspondence, a police report, magazine articles, news clippings, and scholars’ notes within the frame of the story. These are all convincingly assembled, and the clues dropped here suggest that author Davis has followed up on the lead of Cthulhvian expert Robert M. Price in identifying Azathoth with the Mana-Yood-Sushai of Lord Dunsany. Lovecraft’s own “daemon sultan” references to Beckford’s Vathek are faintly traceable in the Tell La’anat archaeological remains from northern Mesopotamia which inspired the composer Oliver Haldane in the musical project that was interrupted by the catastrophe Roland is investigating.
As with other novellas in this series, this one includes an alternate-art character card and two “replacement” signature cards for use in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Roland Banks is a character in the original core set for the game, so there’s nothing new about the character but the art–which is rather nice, with Roland backlit by flames like he is on the book cover. The signature cards are quite interesting, though. The replacement for Roland’s .38 Special asset is a clue-finding event called Mysteries Remain, which rather pales by comparison to the gun. But the replacement signature weakness is the titular Dirge of Reason, which can actually be helpful in the use of Roland’s .38 Special and in dealing with his original signature weakness Cover Up. My next Roland deck is sure to use the double-signature option to add the replacement cards without removing the original signatures. [via]