In Review: Providence #4

The most disturbing issue yet. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: As with the previous covers, interior artist Jacen Burrows is the artist for all the covers, save one. The key setting of this issue, the Wheatley farm, is the image for this month’s Regular cover. It’s a bleak structure with no lights within. However, high in an amber sky the moon glows in an orange radiance. Having that celestial object so bright and the house so dark makes this frightening; though it’s so dark it is hard to make out the details in the art. This is intended to be more of a mood piece than an art piece. A famous Lovecraftian landmark is the primary image of the Dreamscape wrap cover (with the image being on the front and back of the book). A tremendous snow covered mountain stands tall, making all other mounts seem like hills. A face is in the mountain, identifying this as from “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.” Very eerie. The Pantheon variant has a fleshy mass of tentacles, globules, and other warm bodied ickiness. You’ll find yourself staring at this for a while trying to comprehend just what it is you’re seeing, and by then it will be too late. Grossly cool! My favorite variant cover for me this month is the Portrait cover. It features a large man with an elongated face and oddly shaped hands looking an old book within a glass case. The character is wearing a black jacket and large hat to disguise his face and body. He looks like he’ll do anything to get that book out of the case, and he features prominently in this issue. The Ancient Tome cover is the same image as the Regular cover but has been converted into an aged photograph that’s been placed into the front of a leather tome that bears the title and two creators in fancy font. Looking at these covers has me hoping that a leather bound collected edition of this series will be created. The Women of HPL cover features an important character in this issue, Leticia Wheatley. She’s standing with her back to a barn door. A trail of blood has creeped out from under it and has massed into quite the puddle before her. If this weren’t horrific enough, at the bottom, in the crimson liquid, the face of a large man can be seen. Perhaps this is why Leticia looks so frightened. There’s also a Weird Pulp cover penciled by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale, but I couldn’t find an image of it online. Overall grades: Regular A-, Dreamscape B+, Pantheon A+, Portrait A+, Ancient Tome A, and Women of HPL A+

The story: The first page is composed of four unfocused images containing text that’s unreadable. They make no sense whatsoever until later in the book, and when they turn up you’ll rapidly return to this page and begin to smile and nod knowingly. Alan Moore has created perhaps the eeriest chapter yet in this saga which is titled “White Apes.” Robert Black has arrived in Athol and is getting a shave and haircut as he and the barber have a conversation on the family he hopes to meet: the Wheatleys. The barber has a very pointed simile for the family and goes on to refer to Garland Wheatley as Warlock Wheatley. He adds, “Him and his imbecile family got one of the old farms on Cass Meadow, out North Orange Road. To be truthful, they’re poor as dirt, and nobody round here thinks much of ’em.” Paying the man, Black walks out to the farm, intercut with three panels of him speaking with the town librarian about the family. She, too, doesn’t have much positive to say: “I don’t know this Garland Wheatley you’re after, and if he’s from declining stock, I don’t want to. Neither should you, I’d hope. The way some of these people live…Well, it’s nothing to shout about.” He makes it to the farm, and it’s exactly as it was described to him, with things getting very interesting with an arrival on Page 7. The locals’ views of this family place the proper perspective as to what Black learns about them. He’s there to find out more about Hali’s Booke, and in the process learns much, much more. As with previous issues, this is a tale that gets under your skin for the absolute uncomfortable things that must be lurking just beyond the reader’s sight, but if one were a fan of Lovecraft’s writings, there’s so much more than can be seen. The dialogue between the characters is fantastic. If Black were only to have spoken to the first individual he encounters on the farm, I’d have been happy. However, there are three more characters, with the first being so broken as to be startling, the third so monstrous as to be evil incarnate, and the fourth something that has to be seen to be believed. Highlights include pins, livestock, drawings, “John-Divine”, tess’racts, a photograph, and Page 23. The issue features one of the greatest shocks so far, Page 16. It is jolting and disturbing. Black has some more pieces to his puzzle, but he still can’t see everything that’s before him. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: The visuals of this book continues to be superbly drawn by Jacen Burrows. I’m not a fan of comics using computers to tweak artwork slightly, but this first page had me flabbergasted as to what it was I was looking at. When the reveal came at the end of the issue, I quickly came back to this opening and realized the genius of what’s been done. The full page splash on Page 2 is like a slice of Americana by Norman Rockwell, which makes the first bit of dialogue from the barber all the more bitter to swallow. Pages 4 and 5 is an excellent back and forth between Black making his way out to the country and his time in the library, with the librarian living up beautifully to every angry old spinster character. The large panel on 6 is a magnificent view of the entry to the house on the farm. The details are tremendous, and Burrows follows Black like a master cinematographer to the side of the house where another structure is found. I enjoyed the grotesque creatures on the top of 9 — which is a subtle visual to the reader that all is not well on this farm. When two characters take a walk to a watering hole it is gorgeous. It’s everything one would want to find in the wilderness. The second character on the farm is a warning sign from her very first appearance. When Burrows zooms close to her, so close as to see her soul, 16 is a violent, horrific event that still hasn’t left the memory of my mind — wow. The third character appears for only four pages, but his presence makes the mood intense. By avoiding his face on one page it makes him more sinister, considering what he’s doing with his hands. And the final character…Well, you’ll have to experience that individual on your own. This is a beautifully drawn book that shows all that is wrong with this world. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: A poor family’s farm doesn’t exactly sing bright colors, but Juan Rodriguez is afforded the opportunity to have a sensationally bright color scheme on the first page. It will create as many questions as the artwork, but, again, it’s a brilliant bit of foreshadowing. The scenes in Athol are the sedate colors of a small town: browns, tans, and rusts. For the panels told in flashback, Rodriguez continues to use a smart tinting procedure to alert readers to their time frame. Set against Black’s foot trip, they stand out sharply. The blood on the ground that Black discovers matches the coat of an individual, making the tone very uncomfortable. With all the earth colors, the sky is beautiful set off in powder blue. The absence of colors is also a very strong contribution by Rodriguez, as the second and third characters on the farm having very disquieting colors. 16 is the stand out page for colors. It’s primarily one and it makes the action otherworldly. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Kurt Hathaway contributes garbled text, dialogue, the story’s title, the third character’s harsh dialogue, and a photograph’s markings. I was very impressed with the character’s dialogue font that made his speech sound guttural, which was later confirmed by Black in his journal. If a letterer can create that sound with letters, he or she is exceptional at their job. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The horror is right before Black, but he can’t see it. The most disturbing issue yet. 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.
    One Comment
  • Foo
    6 September 2015 at 1:49 pm -

    Great review.

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