In Review: Providence #12

Providence is the apex of Lovecraft horror. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: I was able to locate seven different covers for the final issue of this stunning series. All covers, but the Weird Pulp variant are by Jacen Burrows. The Regular cover features an image of a bridge. The water is light green and there’s an unusual type of fungus that seems to be spreading from the foundations in the water, up the slight towers, to the bridge itself. The fungus is green with pink tendrils. Something is just inherently wrong with this image. The first variant cover is the Ancient Tome cover which features the exact same art as the Regular, but it’s been tinted to resemble an old photograph, embedded in a leather cover. This is a great idea for a series of variants and looks sharp. The Dreamscape wraparound cover features Cthulhu on the front with its right wing/arm raised to surround a city which is engulfed in the fungus of the Regular cover. The image continues onto the back where more of the city is seen and the cosmic sky is also more noticeable. The insertion of photographs as backgrounds into comics often doesn’t work, and it misfires here. It looks like a photograph, hurting the realism of the image. Cthulhu’s giant eye opens, his slumber has ended, as fish men swim about him on the Pantheon cover. This is an iconic image and the one I chose to accompany this review. The source of all these tales graces the Portrait cover: H.P. Lovecraft. He stands in a library with a tome open in his hands, looking to his left; something has broken his concentration. Several of the books have titles, and fans of Lovecraft and this series can undoubtedly track them down. The Weird Pulp cover is limited to 1000 copies and is priced at $9.99. This cover was pencilled by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale. This features the deck of a boat populated by four men. They stare into the mist and see the giant silhouette of Cthulhu. A great frontpiece. The final cover is The Women of HPL featuring a character from Neonomicon, Merril Brears, who was last seen at the end of that book pregnant with something unnatural. She sits naked upon a small cliff, holding her belly with one hand, staring at the crashing waves and the incoming storm. Yes, this would be foreshadowing. This cover is good, but is meaningless unless one has read Neonomicon. Overall grades: Regular A-, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape C+, Pantheon A+, Portrait A, Weird Pulp A, and The Women of HPL A-  

The story: Picking up from last issue, the characters seen entering the house are having a conversation. There are two FBI agents, Fuller and Barstow, and their chief, Carl Perlman. It’s the latter that’s put things together, and it’s the first nine pages of the book where he explains to his agents how the world has come to its current state. He believes that man’s existence is being overthrown by the true reality, that of dreams, or what has been considered dreams, or fiction. In fact, it’s the writings of H.P. Lovecraft that foreshadowed all that was to occur, because they are fact. Perlman wants to go to Saint Anselm College Library in Manchester because he believes Merril Brears, a missing agent (who’s pregnant) may be. She’s helped an insane former agent, Aldo Sax, out of prison. Her report from a previous case is the only thing that connects to this new world. They take their car, going slowly to avoid detection from the nightgaunts. As they make their way they state theories about what’s occurring, as well as lose some of their memory. Alan Moore then has the horror go into mental overdrive. The world is in a state of flux, time is out of sync, and other characters have gone mad. None more obvious than when the trio arrive at the college. Fuller’s reaction to a professor’s actions on 10 are shockingly indifferent. What Perlman discovers on 12 makes the shock of 11 seem tame. Then some previously seen characters arrive on 14 and the climax truly begins. An event of cosmic nature is finally going to occur and Perlman and his agents are there to witness it, or at least walk to it. In fact, what happens to the agents is disturbing. Page 16 introduces eight other characters to the conclusion, and not all are whom they seem to be. It’s disturbing how normal the proceedings are, how calmly the humans act in this situation. What’s in the heavens should begin their descent into madness, but their knowledge of Lovecraft and his stories, makes them rationale observers. The final character appearth on Page 21, and he ith an ominthuth individual. Page 24 is the climax, what all of Moore’s Lovecraft tales have been building to, and even if a reader has only been following this series, he or she should not be surprised. It’s the final six pages that leave the reader truly stunned, for after all — now what? What is to happen to the heroes of the modern day? I liked that there is hope on the penultimate page, with Black’s journal being the key. But it’s the final dialogue on that page that summarizes what the reader is to take away. And Moore hammers it home on the final page. What an ending. Overall grade: A+

The art: The book’s images are often done in four horizontal panels. When someone important appears, it will go to three, and if it is a key moment in the book it becomes a full paged splash. Like a film, Jacen Burrows opens the book in a slow pull out from a table of books before Perlman. The final panel on the page begins to swing around to reveal the chief, with Page 2 being a full page splash showing him, Fuller, and Barstow. There are subtle hints of things that are wrong: the television’s picture and what’s seen through the window. The walk to their car on Page 4 is incredibly tense. Pages 6 and 7 show their journey to Manchester and how reality is changing as they ride. The transformation of something at the bottom of 8 will instantly put readers at unease if they haven’t yet been so. If the book’s imagery hasn’t effected the reader, the large panel on 12 will: it’s disturbing, but I can’t not look at it. I caught trouble for two characters on 15 due to their placement in the panels, and my instincts were correct. The character shown in the bottom right of the last panel on 16 is the only aside to the reader, and it’s haunting! The full page splash on 18 should be a signal to the reader that this will not end well for the characters. The creatures on 16 look spectacular; this is their first appearance for this series, having only been shown on a variant cover. The arrival of the familiar character on 22 is a portent of the climax, and its appearance only adds to this discomfort of those collected for this moment. 24 is composed of 8 horizontal panels that create a tense and, ultimately, devastating conclusion. The actions shown on 25 and 26 are terribly human and grotesque. The final full page splash, 28, showcases the finale, with the supernatural cast’s final appearances. The last four pages show the three humans pondering their fate, with the final page beautifully giving a visual that fate had no part in any of this series’ conclusion. Every panel has tiny wonders and hidden damnations. Overall grade: A+

The colors: After the first three pages, this book is set inside darkened buildings or unearthly skies. Colorist Juan Rodriguez finds the perfect shades to create the night, but allow its newest denizens to be clearly seen. Looking at 5 and 6, notice how the colors become wilder, more primitive, as the car advances. Even the sky changes its colors. At the college, notice how the hallway is brightly lit to show its horrors, but the true insanity is in an unlit room because no one within can see the actions. Red is a color that draws the eye throughout this book, with the book on Page 1 being the first eye catcher. Then the vehicle the trio is in gets this color, followed by the character who wears a stripped shirt on 14. This character shows an even brighter shade of crimson on 16. The final red thown ith on Page twenty-two with one characterth clotheth. One character’s nakedness has her standing out from all the others, making her seem even more vulnerable given the world’s state. The green on 24 – 26 is utterly alien. The most colorful page is the splash of 28, with all the horrors being brighter than the humans. Rodriguez increases the visuals’ intensity. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, the story’s title, a small speaker’s dialogue, some alien speech, and a cylinder’s harsh speech are Kurt Hathaway’s contributions to this final issue. The dialogue is easy to read, with italics used for a reader to better hear a character’s focus, but it’s in the other texts where this book shines. The tiny dialogue had me straining to better “hear” it, with its final text being wonderfully deviant. The alien speech looks superb, and the font used for the cylinder is gloriously mechanical. The text adds another level of wrongness to this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Watchmen is arguably the apex of super hero comics. Providence is the apex of Lovecraft horror. Every story, character, terror is in this series. Lovecraft’s original mythos reach their logical/insane end with this story. I’ve never read The Courtyard or Neonomicon and their stories are key to this conclusion. I’ve read about them, and one character plays a major role in this series’ conclusion. However, this series, and this issue, can be enjoyed without reading them. This is not for children, by any means, but if one is willing to see the fate of humanity, this will read like a dream/nightmare. This is the book of the week. Besides, reading it will make “it” occur all the more quickly. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+ 

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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.
    5 Comments on this post.
  • Unknown
    6 April 2017 at 2:15 pm -

    What was the point of him ripping up the book at the end? I gotta be honest with you I only picked this issue up because of the cool Pantheon cover and had no idea what was going on since I didn’t read the first 11 parts. Who is the creature that woman gave birth too and what was that walking cloud thing near the end?

    • Carson
      6 April 2017 at 9:13 pm -
      • Patrick Hayes
        8 April 2017 at 3:54 am -

        Carson, I hope that when a complete hardcover collection comes out in “Absolute” format, and it will, your annotations are included. They were absolutely invaluable for several scenes. You are much more knowledgeable of Lovecraft than I am!

  • Cweed
    10 April 2017 at 6:06 am -

    dude. you NEED to read the courtyard and neonomicon. They are unbelievably memorable. Loved your reviews and you’re clearly someone who can appreciate the detail of this masterwork.

    • Patrick Hayes
      11 April 2017 at 3:14 am -

      Cweed, I don’t know how I missed them when they first came out, but I am tracking them down. Since both played key roles in Providence’s conclusion, I’m hoping that the publisher, Avatar Press, prints an omnibus collection of all of them together. I’d drop some big bucks for a hardcover. Thanks for the comments!