In Review: Providence #5

Robert Black's quest has revealed something disturbing, and he continues to fall to destruction. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: With dead trees on either side of the path that leads to it, Mrs. Macey’s house is at the end of a wide path. One light is on to lead the lost, but its isolation should be telling strangers to continue on their way. This Regular cover is another nice setting highlighted by Jacen Burrows, who does the art for all the covers. The first variant is the Ancient Tome cover which takes the imagery of the Regular cover and coverts into a tinted picture inset into a faux leather book featuring the issue’s title and artist and writer’s names on the cover. Very cool and I wish this were actually leather bound. The Dreamscrape wraparound cover features a wonderfully detailed village with several cats roaming its streets undisturbed. This is from the Lovecraft story “The Cats of Ulthar” and it looks amazing. The details in the setting are infinite and having the location populated only by felines makes it somewhat unsettling. An otherworldly green creature is set upon a blood red background for the Pantheon cover. The entity has tendrils writhing out of its top and its midsection, with four ebony hooves supporting its girth from an equal number of stubby limbs. This will have readers looking closely into the image to try and make sense of what it is, but Lovecraft fans know better. This is a gorgeously “wrong” illustration. The disturbing driver that takes Robert Black for a lift in his “oxblood Buick Roadster” is the focus of the Portrait cover. He is Brown Jenkins, a key character who is looking at the reader as if he or she was Black: a wicked smile splits his lower face as the rain falls upon the car and a bolt of lightning splays down in the distance. After reading this issue anyone will find this image disturbing. The Women of HPL frontpiece has Mrs. Macey who lets room in her house in Goff Falls standing at the top of a staircase looking down at the reader. There are pictures on either side of the stairwell, but all have black, empty images, mirroring the woman’s eyes. She has her left hand behind her back and a slight mist is creeping up the stairs. Creepy! There’s also a Weird Pulp cover penciled by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale, but I couldn’t find a copy of it online. Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape A+, Pantheon A, Portrait A+, and Women of HPL A+

The story: “In the Walls” by Alan Moore has Robert Black finally stumbling upon something that has him running for safety, or out of the frying pan and into the fryer. The first page has Black arriving in Manchester after receiving a ride from Mr. Jenkins. The pair travel through an unexpected storm before arriving at the reporter’s destination: Saint Anselm. Black is there to read a particular book, but the librarian is out and won’t return for a week. He’s tried to decipher the book, but “there’s an invented alphabet and vocabulary…Terms like ‘yr nhhngr’, which is apparently a tense denoting nested time.” Father Walter Race then recommends a local hotel and “If you’ve time to kill, I hear there are government people investigating the meteorite site, out past Sebbins Brook.” Black says he’ll do that. A man in the hall hears Black’s New York accent and strikes up a conversation with him. The man is Dr. Hector North, who tells him he’s not a man of the cloth. “If truth be told, I’m more of a revivalist.” Leaving this individual, Black encounters another famous Lovecraftian character whose words are much more mature than her actual appearance. Eventually, Black arrives at Mrs. Macey’s house where he takes a room and then goes off to see what the government has discovered where a meteorite fell. Several tales from Lovecraft cross paths in this tale, with the protagonist finally bearing witness to something that has him realizing he’s over his head. Credit must be given to Moore for creating a situation that is not graphic, but horrendously unsettling. There are also several neat twists with the setting involving Mr. Jenkins. The final three pages left me fearing for Black’s safety as his supposed respite is a much more dangerous place. The links are starting to come together for Black and he’d be much happier if they didn’t. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Jacen Burrows continues to show himself to be an outstanding illustrator by rendering superior looking characters, settings, and other “things”. The first page is a masterful frozen shot of the interior of Jenkins’ cars as it makes its way to Saint Anselm. Though the dashboard and windows are frozen, creating an excellent point of view, the exteriors are not, as the countryside changes, the level of rain hitting the car changes, and the hands of the occupants within the car move: it’s like a movie on a page. The second pages establishes the protagonist and his movement through the halls of the college. During the characters’ conversations Burrows moves his “camera” around to show distance between characters and highlight architecture: Pages 3 – 5 are an incredibly smooth visual experience. If one were to not read the dialogue (But, c’mon, this is Alan Moore!), a reader would be able to easily comprehend the interplay between the characters based on their locations, emotions, and stances. Pages 6 and 7 introduce a new character and setting. As with the previous pages, the visuals add much to the story, with actions and a pulling away from the characters revealing much. Mrs. Macey’s house is the expected creaking old structure, but there is one panel that’s repeated that creates immediate tension: a view from outside the house looking in, which features small tree branches looking like tendrils swarming the wall, trying to capture those within. It’s fantastic! Jenkins is a deviant character, who has an excellent surprise if one is paying attention to the bottom of panels. 18 – 20 contain the most disturbing scene of this series yet, with it being Black’s first realization that all’s not right. If only he had seen what was happening on the final page, he might have realized his error in seeking shelter. This is realistic artwork combined with the wrong, and it’s oh so right. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: If you’ve ever been driving in the rain on the east coast, Burrows nails the visual and Juan Rodriguez hits it out of the park with his coloring. I really like the slow brightening of colors after the rain has ceased — and check out the interior of the car: he’s lightened things with the improvement in the weather. This is a slick, subtle, smart job. The interiors of Saint Anselm contain all the tans and browns one would expect from a learning institution, which better serves to highlight the colors of certain character’s attire. When North reveals his name, he and Black are outside and Rodriguez gives him a powder blue background to frame his bust, giving him an aura of rebirth. The brightest pages are 6 and 7, though the colors make things seem overly grey, as if something was not understood entirely. Brown Jenkins is naturally clothed in brown clothes, though one aspect of his character is a sickly grey. An interior sequence of three pages take place in the dark, but Rodriguez makes everything visible by using an eerie aqua-grey. I’ve never said this in a review before, but if he had wanted to darken the scene so I didn’t have to see all of “that”, I would have been more than happy. This book clearly demonstrates how colors can be used to influence a story’s tone. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue and narration (the same font) and story’s title are Kurt Hathaway’s contributions to this issue. With text this dense, which is necessary to tell this tale, and demanding visuals that contain clues to other events, which is, again, absolutely necessary, Hathaway has quite the job to insert text without diminishing the visuals. He does so expertly, including having words in italics to allow the reader tp better “hear” each character’s voice. An excellent job. Overall grade: A+ 

The text: Pages from Black’s journal are included, recounting his misadventures this issue. Readers should not skip these pages because Black reveals what happens after the visual portion of this issue has ended and he includes a first draft of the beginning of his book that he’s researching. These pages add further dimension to Robert and give some clues to his mental state, especially on the final page. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Robert Black’s quest has revealed something disturbing, and he continues to fall to destruction. If readers aren’t careful, they’ll fall with him. 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
  • heterodoxtribune
    12 November 2015 at 10:46 pm -

    This series has been amazing thus far!

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