In Review: Providence #8

Iconic stories and dreams come to life as Black continues his quest for knowledge. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Seven is the dreamy number of covers for you to place in your collection, should you have the wherewithal to do so. Interior artist Jacen Burrows is the creator of all the covers, save one. The Regular cover features an image of the Randall Carver’s den. A comfortable chair faces a sun filled window, which illuminates the artifacts atop and within book shelves, which includes several oddly constructed curiosities. This is a room I’d love to visit. Continuing the format of previous Ancient Tome covers, this features the artwork of the Regular cover, though it’s been tinted to resemble an aged photo. The photo has been inset into a leather book, whose title and credits are the same as this book. I would love to see this on an actual leather covered edition. The Pantheon cover features a close up on one of these items on his shelves: a bust with bird winds protruding from the sides of its head. This is gorgeous and leaves one wondering if flight will play into this story. Randall Carver himself is the focus of the Portrait cover. He’s wearing a smoking jacket over his clothes, his feet are in fashionable Asian footwear, and his pipe is releasing a tremendous volume of smoke, obscuring the book’s title. This is a handsome portrait of the man and captures his character instantly. The Women of HPL cover has an individual that’s been shown in a previous issue, Nahum Gardner’s wife from “The Colour Out of Space.” The family well has attracted a vast collection of interesting flora, while the woman looks intensely at the reader. Oh, the foreshadowing of this classic tale! The Dreamscape cover features an empty trolley sitting on its tracks that are surrounded by a grassy field. Two conductors with odd facial features are on either side of vehicle, complementing the eerie full moon sky. Mildly disturbing, to say the least. The Weird Pulp cover is limited to 1000 copies, so good luck tracking it down! An individual wearing an orange turban is pulling a mask of a bearded man away from his head, revealing his actual scarred white face. The hand removing the mask is bandaged in white linen, while his other hand is revealed to be a lobster claw holding a key. Smoke swirls about the left side of the character and a giant clock featuring odd symbols is on his right. This exemplifies the word weird. The pencils on this final cover were done by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale. Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome B+, Pantheon A+, Women of HPL A, Dreamscape A-, and Weird Pulp A

The story: Protagonist Robert Black is in Randall Carver’s apartment where the writer of dreams relates how a real event sparked one of this own tales. As incense wafts to the ceiling, Black enquires about other dream related works, including a tale by an author named Lovecraft. Carver then relates his journey into exploring his dreams and writing about them. In the process, Carver leads Black into a shared exploration, visiting several characters, creatures, and locales that will be well known among aficionados of the Rhode Island writer. The discussion the pair have as they make their way is fascinating reading that is turned end over end by the visuals. However, focusing only on the story, the pair exit the dream world and then go to listen to a reading by Lord Dunsany and Black encounters an author he’s fond of. This seems like a fairly straightforward tale, but every element adds a flavor to the story to make one wonder why each was included, such as the pair and throng on Page 10. It’s rare to find a book in this medium to have a conversation be such riveting stuff, but Black and Carver’s discourse is wonderful. Alan Moore’s story is so enjoyable, even for those unfamiliar with Lovecraft and his works, but if one has a knowledge of some of Lovecraft’s material, every page and panel features something that will make one smile or gasp. And that last page holds so much promise! Overall grade: A+

The art: The detail with which Jacen Burrows packs into this book will leave readers with their mouths agape. The first three panels of the book feature something that is the stuff of dreams and, evidently, fact. It is incredibly strange and foreshadows what’s soon to appear. The bottom panel is a terrific tease of this issue’s two leads, allowing their hands to shape the characters before they’re fully shown in the splash of the second page. Smoke has never looked as exotic in a book as it does here. Two characters having a conversation at a table doesn’t sound as though it would be exciting to see, but Burrows moves the point of view around outstandingly on the first three pages, intercutting the remainder of their talk with scenes from side stories. This issue sees the addition of a cat, a black one naturally, and the camera focuses on the creature sometimes, providing further foreshadowing for a gloriously magical moment on Pages 13 and 14. Several pages in this issue contain tall vertical panels that allow the characters to travel down into a dream and to show movement. Beginning on Page 23, previous characters have cameo appearances and my heart increased its beat due to the fear they created in the past and resume in the present. The final panel of the issue features Black looking longingly at someone in the distance. It’s wonderful. Overall grade: A+

The colors: This issue features the greatest number of varied settings and characters, so far, providing colorist Juan Rodriguez a wide tapestry to show his skills, and he does so famously. The book opens with fleshly luminescent colors that transition to the dark colorings of a Victorian home. When the gentlemen’s talk begins to travel to other locations, the colors change drastically, to frosty white mountains, grey and orange colored graveyards, and green jungle locales. The dream world is dark, but not so dim as to make the images disappear; instead, they seem to have more of a life under the light of a full moon. The cameos of former characters are the darkest of the book, and they evoke an incredible amount of dread because of their coloring. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Kurt Hathaway creates dialogue, the story’s title, a familiar creature’s speech (Page 9), and the incredible font for the last page. It’s this final font that puts a tremendous punch into the conclusion. Don’t peek, it will ruin the effect, but when come upon after reading the entire issue, it leaves the reader well beyond the confines of this book, as if in a dream. Overall grade: A+

The text: The excerpts from Black’s journal provide backstory to him meeting Carvell before this story commences. He reveals thoughts about the author that are not revealed in the story and had me returning to the story to see if I could glean any of his written, hidden words in his speech. There’s also a considerable amount of natural focus given to his thoughts on dreams and his inability to be create as Carvell does. When Black retells his encounter with the famous individual that ends the book it left me incredibly anxious to read the next installment of this series. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Iconic stories and dreams come to life as Black continues his quest for knowledge. You couldn’t look away if you tried. 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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