The covers: Again, a lucky seven covers for the true fan to find in their obsessive quest to obtain all that can be obtained. All are created by Jacen Burrows. The Regular cover is St. John’s Church, which was the basis for the Starry Wisdom church from the Lovecraft tale “The Haunter in the Dark.” The angle suggests that something in its upper regions is very important, and last issue it was revealed that the Shining Trapezohedron is located on its top floor. Someone is about to enter the church, as shown by a shadow. The Ancient Tome is a faux leather cover which uses the image from the Regular cover as a photograph to top off this “volume.” Very cool. The Dreamscape frontpiece has a purple mountain underneath a dynamic orange and yellow sky. Above the mountain are two dragon-like creatures being ridden by satyr-like creatures. Since this is a wraparound cover, both creatures can be seen in close up as they look at their fellows in the distance. I have no idea what the story basis is for this, but it’s a gorgeous fantasy cover. The most important cover in this collection is the Pantheon cover which features Johnny Carcosa, a character that featured in Alan Moore’s early work, The Courtyard and Neonomicon. His previous publication history isn’t necessary to understand his importance in this work. The veiled figure’s left half seems to be snaking off as black darkness. This is a creepy image and important tease of horrors to come. I have no clue what story the Portrait cover is from, and I could find no description of it online. It shows a man with a lantern and a whip in basement, being watched by two horribly misshapen forms. The pair of monsters look to do the man harm, and, were it not for his whip, I have no doubt they’d attack. The horrific Johnny Carcosa’s mother is the figure on the Women of HPL cover. She is seen behind an iron gate, shutting it to the reader. She looks very cross as she does so, her pointy nails frightening as she prohibits anyone from gaining entrance. The gate could belong to St. John’s Church, a location that she’s been seen at in previous appearances. “The Haunter of the Dark” is the basis for the Weird Pulp cover penciled by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale. This scene is from the climax of the story as the creature that haunts Robert Blake. This is a great way to show the creature, hidden by the night, with certain disturbing aspects visible to make a reader quake. Seeing this creature against the now familiar church makes it even creepier. Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape A, Pantheon A+, Portrait A-, Women of HPL A, and Weird Pulp A+
The story: This will be a very vague summary so as not to spoil the story. The opening page of the issue continues the scene begun on the Regular cover, as someone is entering the church, and that someone is the mother of Johnny Carcosa. As she stops at the bottom, the steps are shown to be lined with several old women praying, candles and flowers before them as they wail and sob. The brutish woman then says something. She is accompanied by narration from H.P. Lovecraft, who is speaking to Robert Black about Edgar Allan Poe’s visit to the town long ago. They leave their location and begin the walk back to Lovecraft’s, discussing the fantastical authors they both enjoy. As they make their way, Lovecraft admits to Black that he’s embellished some of the weirder aspects from the man’s diary and turned them into tales. The pair soon pass Howard Charles, who looks different to Black. Soon they arrive at Lovecraft’s where their conversation continues. The mention of a man’s name on Page 13 causes Black much distress, causing him to leave. On Page 16 Alan Moore has the book truly reveal the indifferent nature of the universe and places Black on the path to madness. He’s visited by Johnny Carcosa, a recurring character in Moore’s Lovecraft inspired books, and his words and deeds put this issue, and the entire saga, into a new dark corner. Carcosa’s speech will leave the reader wary of anyone with a speech impediment. This is probably the most shocking issue Moore has crafted in this series because of what’s said. I can’t explain in detail any aspect of this book from 16 on, but it might be revealing that Black’s role in the future of the Elder Gods has already occurred; except now he is aware of it. Wow. Overall grade: A+
The art: Painstakingly detailed work is what Jacen Burrows has wrought on this issue. The first page shows Carcosa’s mother about to ascend the stairs to the church. The slow pull in to her resembles that of a camera close up. The change of scenery to the splash on Page 2 is startling, as Black and Lovecraft are at a church’s exterior having a pleasant discussion. As the two make their way to Lovecraft’s the settings are gorgeous. Howard Charles is teased on his first two pages, not shown to the reader, forcing the reader to rely on Black’s words to go by as to how the man now looks. When Charles is fully revealed, albeit from a distance on 6, he looks extremely young, which should disturb readers of this series. Page 16 has a motion that becomes grossly terrifying on 17, resulting in Black having a moment out of time. Readers should also look at the changes between each panel on 17, including something appearing that Black first viewed last issue and he should be wary of. Johnny Carcosa appears on 18 in an absolutely bizarre way. “It” continues through to 20, which features the first pure image of Carcosa, though even in this illustration he is obviously not on an Earthly plane. Every panel with Carcosa should be poured over, as he (it?) and the setting are constantly changing. I was also very happy to see the second panel on 25, because this is a terror that should be seen, and once viewed will never be forgotten. The final page returns to some previously shown characters, though their mood has changed considerably. Again, Wow. Overall grade: A+
The colors: The opening page has a tint of age upon it, suggesting that the events shown may have occurred at an earlier time, be it hours or decades. Juan Rodriguez then brightens the pages considerably as Black and Lovecraft have their walk. The colors of Howard Charles’s clothes are much darker than those of the leads, cluing the reader into his true identity. Lovecraft’s room is delightfully warm, and matches its occupant’s mood. However, once Black returns to his abode, the colors go sinister, highlighted by eerie greens, giving it an otherworldly atmosphere that foreshadows what’s to come. The starry background behind Corcosa is hypnotically gorgeous, leaving the reader unprepared for the visual that’s on 25, nor the colors that bring it to life. Rodriguez’s contributions put plenty of twists into this book. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Kurt Hathaway creates dialogue, the story’s title, Black’s script, Carcosa’s opening speech, a scream, and the distant wails of one character. Black’s script has an instantly recognizable visual quality that has the reader realize that he or she is looking at handwritten script. Carcosa’s speech is the fright of this issue, looking similar enough to “normal” dialogue, but different enough to make the character off kilter. Great work. Overall grade: A+
The prose: Black’s journal focuses on his time spent with Lovecraft and his attempts to focus on one individual’s tale. It’s a very interesting read that has me wishing that Black’s notes were a novel unto themselves. The high point of this installment is the final page which was written after the events of this issue. It shows that Black is now a changed man. Reading this is like watching a man drown. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Black’s place in the history of the Elder Gods is solidified and it appears he’s been abandoned to insanity. Truly, this is madness brought to life. Highest possible recommendation.
Note: If one wants to know everything about this issue, I strongly recommend — after reading this issue — one go to https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-10/ I am continually amazed at the incredible depth done on this website that examines each panel and gives an analysis that is astounding. Just as I think I’ve gleaned all that there is, I look at this site and find myself coming across something I’ve missed.
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