In Review: Providence #2

Mandatory reading for lovers of Lovecraft, horror, and the supernatural.

The covers: The business residence of Robert Suydam is the image on the Regular cover by Jacen Burrows, who did all of these covers, save one. Originally a church, the building is “mostly a dancehall now, full to bursting with bandidos of a Friday night.” It’s a simple structure, foreboding structure. I love the look of this building and chose to purchase this cover. It’s only Issue #2 of this series and I’m really taken with the Ancient Tome cover variants. This variant features the artwork from the Regular cover tinted like an aged photograph as part of insert on a leather book’s cover. Even the font at the top of this cover is neat. Just fantastic. A two sailed ship rows beyond the limits of a vast waterfall against a gorgeous purple and blue night sky on the Dreamscape Wraparound Variant. The Pantheon Variant shows a vast dark cave interior with a flaming figure emerging in the distance. This is a creepy cover foreshadowing a major event from this issue. I’m not fond of comics that reveal plot points beyond the first ten pages, so as much as I like the illustration, it’s too much of a spoiler. The Portrait Variant has Robert Suydam opening a door into a basement and seeing black tendrils winding their way upwards to escape. Excellent image that does NOT occur in this issue, but shows this character in a specific light. Outstanding! The Weird Pulp Variant is penciled by Burrows, but painted by Michael DiPascale. It features an anxious looking man in a suit feeling overwhelmed by the immigrants on the street and in the buildings above him. This is Lovecraft’s nightmare brought to life. This is interesting, but not pulp enough for me. Cornelia Gerritsen graces the Women of HPL cover. She appears to be forcing herself to ignore the open door behind her that bares three claw marks. She looks great, the lamp and table sensational, and the coloring awesome. This beautifully hints at who she is.  Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A+, Dreamscape B, Pantheon D (too much shown), Portrait A, Weird Pulp C, and Women A

The story: Robert Black has taken time off from work at the paper to investigate Robert Suydam, whom Dr. Alvarez purchased an ancient tome from. Once in Flatbush, Black is greeted by Tom Malone, a hulking, attractive officer. He gives Black information about the location Suydam operates out of, which used to be a church, but is now a dancehall on the weekends and location for “Suydam’s lectures in occult philosophy, down in the cellars underneath the church.” In fact, “It’s a place that’s not well-liked, on the occasion that we’ve had a child go missing, you hear rumours.” The two talk of the occult, with the officer revealing that he’s very well read. The pair sit in a coffee shop across from a graveyard where Suydam “often takes the air.” Malone expresses an interest in seeing Robert again, just as Suydam appears. Robert leaves to speak with the man, and that’s when things get really interesting. Alan Moore has written an outstanding installment that will have fans of Lovecraft, suspense, and horror enthralled. The conversation with Suydam is fascinating as he discusses Black the occult, and the entrance of Cornelia Gerritsen adds another welcome character to this tale. She seems innocent, but I know Moore and I know I have to pay attention to what this individual says and does. The showpiece of the story is what happens in the basement. Someone goes down there and something major happens. It’s creepy as all hell, and the final page is a horrific smack in the reader’s face. Fantastic! Overall grade: A+

The art: The most gleeful terror is the kind that exists in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I love supernatural chills, but those horrors that escaped from Lovecraft seem so grounded in his world at the time, that the terror that they produce has made them legendary. The visuals by Jacen Burrows are picture perfect. I’ve been to the cities that this book visits, tracing Lovecraft’s journeys, and this book is real. The city streets are amazingly perfect, starting at the bottom of the first page, and exploding on the second page. The architecture by Burrows is beautiful. I appreciate his ability to move his point of view around, such as on Page 3, taking in a street corner conversation from many angles. As two men make their way down a street, the addition of the immigrants plainly makes Black uneasy. Page 7 is a wonder: shown from inside the coffeehouse, the two men speak until the arrival of Suydam. The final panel on that page is so beautifully telling of one man’s character. The graveyard looks exactly as the graveyards I’d visited on a trip to the east coast. It’s exact, as far as I’m concerned. Suydam’s home is much more lush that Alvarez’s apartment from last issue, and I could get lost just looking around. What lies under the house is even more intriguing, and this is what I was getting at in my opening of this contribution to the book. Because of the sensational work Burrows has done with the real world, once things are shown under the house they are wholly believable. And that’s what makes them so terrifying. Should someone doubt that the events that transpired there are only dreams, the final page of the book has a gasp inducing image that will stop one in their tracks. This is fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The browns, tans, and blacks of the time period dominate every part of this book. It’s what the fashion was, and Juan Rodriguez brings them to life. However, Rodriguez also brings so much more to the book. The opening page contains two flashbacks to last issue and he tints them in browns to show their aged nature. The immigrants that populate this location contain no colors, as if they are aliens living among the Americans. It is underneath the home where the coloring is tremendous. Yes, it’s dark down there, but some things can be seen, when perhaps readers wish that they couldn’t be. After his harrowing adventure, Black walks off into a spectacular sunset, the brightest display of colors in the issue, but they don’t light up the shocking visual. I’m loving Rodriguez’s work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Kurt Hathaway has created dialogue, the issue’s title, and a unique individual’s sounds for this issue. No sound effects are needed for this issue, as that unique individual’s utterances are sound enough. Overall grade: A

The text pieces: This issue contains hand written journal pages from Black commenting on his experiences and an excerpt from Suydam’s pamphlets that Black purchased. The journal pages don’t give much more depth into Black’s character, though I do enjoy first person narratives, and those pamphlet excerpts are wonderfully twisted. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Mandatory reading for lovers of Lovecraft, horror, and the supernatural. Highest possible recommendation. 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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