In Review: Providence #11

You won't look at the world the same way after you read this book. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: If one hasn’t gone insane from the story itself, trying to track down all 17 covers for this issue will surely push one over the edge. That’s right — 17 covers. The first seven covers are created by Jacen Burrows. The Regular cover features the Bryant Park exit garden seen in the first issue, though now it’s snowing. When seen in Issue 1, something terrible happened there. If a reader doesn’t recall this event, Page 12 will bring it back to mind. The Ancient Tome cover features the same image as the Regular cover, though as a black and white photograph that adorns a faux leather bound copy of this book. These covers have continued to be gorgeous, and this is no exception. The Dreamscape cover is a wraparound  image of Randolph Carter viewing the city he’s long been searching for. This is the image I selected to accompany this review. The Pantheon cover is amazing, though I’m not well versed enough in H.P. Lovecraft’s stories to know who this. Online, I found two sources that stated that this was the High-Priest Not To Be Described from “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.” This features a massive character clothed in many layers of tattered wrappings that have turned yellow over time. No flesh is shown to the reader — the wrappings cover all. The character is sitting in massive marble throne that is atop a raised dais also made of marble. This is beautiful and eerie. The Portrait cover features protagonist Robert Black in a happier time. He’s in bed looking at an unseen character. He has his glasses on and he’s smiling. An open window shows a partial city view of New York, and in the foreground his friend, perhaps Lillian Russell, is about to open a copy of Sous LeMonde by Claude Guillot. I have a feeling that Black will never be this happy again. The Women of HPL cover spotlights one of the characters from Page 2 of this issue. It’s a woman looking out the window of a train. She appears a bit sad as the rain outside clouds her vision. Her image is also clouded by the rain, as it appears that her left eye is melting. It’s the only unreal element of this illustration and it has my eye always returning to stare upon it. The Weird Pulp cover, which is penciled by Burrows but painted by Michael DiPascale, has Nyarlathotep appearing as an Egyptian pharaoh. He’s a strong looking human, while his lower extremities are a nightmare that produces screams. The entire package definitely resembles something from the pulp era. After these seven comes a series of ten called Century covers and they are all created by Raulo Caceres. Each cover is limited to 100 copies and retails for $39.95 each. The Dunwich cover features Lavinia Whateley and her twin sons, Wilbur and the Unnamed One. She’s the most normal looking thing in the illustration, and even she is ghastly. The boys are quite the clawed and tentacled sights. Abdul Alhazred is ripped apart by invisible demons on the Final Words cover. This is a highly detailed cover set on the streets of Damascus, whose citizenry witnesses the man hauled into the air and killed. Graphic, but good. The Great Race cover has one of the Great Race of Yith feverishly scribbling in a book that has Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee’s name on it. The creature is fantastic and the colors really make it stand out. The HPL cover is a portrait of Lovecraft, with his familiar face on the left, while his right side is composed of every fleshy, fishy, claw, and tentacle horror that he wrote. This is poster worthy! The Mi-Go cover shows a hapless human on a table with his brain removed, sitting in a jar next to him, as one of the infamous creatures continues its horrific experiments. Gorgeously grotesque and one that I wish I could own. Next is the Moon Bog cover from the story of the same name. This scene is from the climax of the story, as naiads lead willing humans to their death and moonlight captures another. A creepy image. The Mountains of Madness cover is one of my favorites, from one of my favorite HPL tales. This shows the Elder Things trying to stop the rebellion of the shoggoths. Excellent! Red Hook shows a scene from the short story’s climatic ending, with the story’s protagonist right in the thick of monsters unimaginable. The penultimate cover is Unnameable, featuring the title character appearing above a grave, terrifying Carter and Joel. The creature’s design looks very turn of the century, and the setting only enhances its ancient status. The final cover is Witch House, from “The Dreams in the Witch House.” Walter Gilman’s point of view is shown as he is menaced by Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin, with a familiar looking Nyarlothotep present as well. All in all, there is something for everyone’s particular tastes with this issue. Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape  A, Pantheon A+, Portrait  A, Women of HPL  A+, Weird Pulp A, Dunwich  B, Final Words A+, Great Race A+, HPL A, Mi-Go A+, Moon Bog B, Mountains of Madness A, Red Hook B+, Unnameable A+, and Witch House B    

The story: After the events of last issue, Robert Black is ready to return to New York. He’s on a train for the city where he feels he’ll be safe. He boards a car in silence, but a conversation he had with Howard Lovecraft, where the pulp writer asks if Robert can describe what he’s been seeing or feeling, triggers anxiety. With a turn of a page Robert’s apprehensions come to life: all the of the car’s inhabitants have transformed into all the individuals, human and supernatural, that he’s encountered in the previous ten issues of this series. The car continues on its way, as someone plays a record of Al Jolson singing “You Made Me Love You” in a different location and, perhaps, different time. Leaving the train, he fearfully looks upon the inhabitants of his city, passing by a police round up, until finally arriving at Horn & Hardart, an automat from the first issue. Before he can sit, he’s recognized and Black’s visits with acquaintances begins. Each individual has Black revealing a bit more of his mental state, culminating in a location from the first issue. It seems as if Black’s journey has finished, but the story isn’t even halfway done. Characters visited are shown again, with many reaching their fates as told in Lovecraft’s tales. The writer himself appears several times, and his works are discussed by others long after his passing. Alan Moore has Lovecraft’s real life shown with the events of his characters. But these aren’t characters — they’re as real as Lovecraft and their lives, and the fallout from them, create other events that go beyond the life of their so-called creator. I admit to becoming disturbed as the story caught up to real time, as supernatural events have continued, culminating in a cliffhanger that is going to have me on the edge of my seat until the final issue. Moore could have ended the issue at this point, it would certainly be line with a Lovecraft tale, but where is this tale to go next? The world has finally gone mad. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: The visuals continue to be painstakingly masterful images created by Jacen Burrows. The first page is a riveting close up of Black as his fears take him over, revealed in a full page splash of past horrors on Page 2. The parallel images of panels two and three on Page 3 are amazing, with the latter panel becoming a common visual motif that appears throughout the issue. The three pages that occur on a park bench are a wonder that capture the normalcy of Black, but they belie the madness dwelling within him; the silent panels on 11 are terrific. Burrows’s architecture work is perfection, such as on 13, which is sensational. There are plenty of ghastly horrors to be had in this issue, which start on 14 and continue until the final page. Highlights include images on 14, 16, and 19. Every panel is full of easter eggs that HPL fans can find and even some that will be obvious to novice readers, such as the first panel on 27. Pages 28 – 31 tease the insanity that’s begun, with the characters telling the reader that more is occurring than is being shown, and this is the perfect way to suck a reader further into this book. Every little visual hint of something not right, like the item just coming into the top panel on 30, induces involuntary shudders that to see more would have the reader fall into a state similar to that of Robert Black. The final page is a splash that creates wonder and terror simultaneously, leaving the reader thinking that this is a blaspheme that the planet cannot escape. Beautiful, perfect, and horrific art. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Every person, creature, building, and thing is colored in reality. There’s nothing that has “comic book” colors. Everything is colored as it should be. The dark wood on a public train looks as though it’s right out of the time period, while the supernatural passengers also have shades that mark them as real individuals. Bright red is used to show one person’s deformity on Page 3, and catches the reader’s eye, just as it catches paranoid Black’s sight. Sickly yellows in the automat enhance Black’s mental sickness. Juan Rodriguez makes the visuals seem as though they’ve occurred from actual events, and that’s when something graphic or otherworldly occurs, providing a jolt to the reading experience. Crimson comes into play often after, or during, violent moments, and it never fails to elicit gasps. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, several indecipherable Hoos, a death rattle of a moan, and a television broadcast comprise Kurt Hathaway’s contributions to this issue. Normally I prefer characters’ yells to be a unique all caps font, but having all the dialogue be in one style brings a sense of normalcy to the proceedings, as if they could have happened; much like the way Rodriguez does his coloring. When there is a different font, it’s as unsettling as the use of red for blood. Hathaway is doing some strong work. Overall grade: A+

The final line: You won’t look at the world the same way after you read this book. The creators of this series have brought to life and expanded all the madness of H.P. Lovecraft. I don’t whether to thank them or plead for them to stop. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To purchase a hard copy of this book go to http://www.comcav.net/collections/avatar-press-november-2016-releases/products/providence-11

Note: I must credit the website Facts In The Case of Alan Moore’s Providence. Every issue of this series is amazingly annotated and has helped me when my HPL knowledge was lacking. Here is a link to the annotations for this issue:  https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-11/

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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