In Review: Providence #1

It's only the opening chapter, but there is already a strong sense of secrets everywhere if one were only to investigate.

The covers: Six covers for you to drive youself insane as you track them down. The Regular cover is an exterior shot of the apartment building where Dr. Alvarez lives. The shadow of a pale white tree falls upon the structure, seeming to act like tendrils searching for something, but stopping just short of window that is lit in an eerie blue luminescence. That is the residence of the doctor. The Pantheon cover features a monstrous creature emerging out of the ocean toward some unknown destination. The rain is falling upon the beast, though the sky is crimson with two moons or suns showing. Very creepy, very cool. The Portrait cover is the illustration I’m using for this review. It shows Alvarez in his room, the curtains allowing in sunlight, though he sits before his machine that keeps his room so very, very cool. There is a Dreamscape wraparound cover showing an ancient civilization listening to a storyteller discuss a kingdom he has seen that has yet to be created. The detail on this cover is lavish and should be one to seek out. The Women of HPL cover features Mrs. Herrero from the story “Cool Air” and her shocking discovery. Excellent use of escaping vapors on this cover. The logo and look of the book are radically different on the Weird Pulp cover featuring some robed figure horrifying several naked people who scream as they try to leave its presence. I love the logo, the layout, and the colors are great in yellow and orange. The final cover is the Tome Retailer incentive which takes the Regular cover and gives it an ancient tint and shrinks it so it appears to be the inset image on the cover of a large, leather book. I’ve never seen this done for a variant cover and it’s very clever and very cool. All covers are by Jacen Burrows, with the exception of the Weird Pulp cover which he penciled and Micahel DiPascale painted. Each is well done and is either explicit or subtle in its Lovecraft roots. Overall grades: Regular B, Pantheon A, Portrait A, Dreamscape A+, Women of HPL A, Weird Pulp A+, and Tome A-

The story: Jonathan Black is a reporter for the New York Herald in 1919. His boss and two coworkers are trying to come with a story to fill half a page. The story Sous le Monde comes up and Black remembers a “local element” involved. “There was a doctor who’d written an essay about it” living close by. Black leaves to meet with this Dr. Alvarez and see what he knows. Along the way writer Alan Moore has some flashbacks from Black’s youth and a man who appears in the opening and two other scenes. All of this builds background into Black’s character and foreshadows why he will make the decisions he does as the book progresses. The scenes with Alvarez were the best as he appears to be living the life of a character from H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” This series is intended to run about in Lovecraft’s worlds, but there is nothing jumping out horrifically, yet. It’s only the initial issue and characters must be established before putting them through hell. However, there is enough simmering about of secrets, secret lives, and ancient texts. When Alan Moore writes anything it’s a cause for celebration, so I’m more than willing to go along for this ride, because I don’t know when his stories haven’t failed to disturb. Overall grade: A

The art: Highly detailed art comes from Jacen Burrows on this book. The bottom panel of the first page alerts readers to how exactly he will be with his art: each window on the building is unique–some with awnings and some without, there are people in the park, and the rail which the character leans upon is shaded just enough to make it seem well worn. The splash page is a monster for detail on the typewriters and the view outside the window. If this weren’t enough, Pages 5 – 9 are sick with precision. The arrival at Alvarez’s is great, with the tree outside it chilling. The characters look terrific, with Black as the perfect everyman of the time and Alvarez a gaunt emotionless man. I really like the steam emanating from Black in the doctor’s apartment; a constant reminder of the temperature of the room. The relics in the man’s room are amazing, each with an untold tale. My favorite visual was the exterior of the Herald, with the owls being terrifying at night. Such a clean and orderly world will transform in issues to come and I can’t wait to see how Burrows shapes it. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The browns and grays of the time period dominate this piece. Even at night, the colors remain appropriate for the time. Juan Rodriguez makes the reality of the art fully realized through his coloring. Though there are some flourishes that do stand out: the violet text on the letter, the yellow story title, the white butterfly, and the brown coat on Mrs. Ortega. The pasty skin of Alvarez also draws attention. The book looks good. Overall grade: A

The letters: A handwritten letter, dialogue, a typed letter, the opening chapter title, and the text of the Commonplace Book are all accomplished by Kurt Hathaway. Each is done well, with the standout being the Commonplace Book; I enjoyed the crossing out of words and phrases with some obliterated entirely. I’m hoping that each installment of this book has more entries and Hathaway will be allowed to tweak the writer’s penmanship as he goes into strange new areas of understanding. Overall grade: A

The final line: It’s only the opening chapter, but there is already a strong sense of secrets everywhere if one were only to investigate. Jonathan Black will open some doors that probably should have stayed closed. I’m extremely interested to see where this is heading. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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