In Review: Providence #7

If madness has a name, it must be Alan Moore. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: An eerie seven covers to collect to begin the final half of this limited series, with all but one of these frontpieces created by Jacen Burrows. The Regular cover shows a portion of Mr. Pitman’s studio, focusing on his painting. There appears to be a blank canvas covered, with two small photographs tacked to it for reference. A painters palette is on the floor, showing the artist was recently there, as two quick sketches in red are nearby. There is also a considerable amount of red paint on the floor below the canvas. Is it paint…? The Ancient Tome cover is the same image as the Regular cover, though it’s been slightly altered to resemble a photograph placed onto a leather book. The image is tinted, giving it an aged appearance, with the title of the book and the two primary creators done on a brass plate. Nice. The Dreamscape Wrap features a cave with several coffins, opened, populated by saprovores, with one in the foreground eyeing the reader. Creepy. I admit to having to go online to figure out what it is on the Pantheon cover. At factsprovidence on WordPress it is stated that this is “possibly a depiction of Azathoth, the ‘Nuclear Chaos.’ surrounded by its demon pipers.” That sounds good to me, and it’s the image I’ve selected to accompany this review. The Portrait cover features Pitman at work painting. The silhouette of his subject tells readers it’s not human. Nice tease! The Women of HPL was a bit of a puzzler, as there are no women of any mention in this tale, so I’m going to assume it’s a ghoul, as they are mentioned in this issue and come up in “Pickman’s Model.” Very disturbing, though I’d admit to being a bit let down that the character is not a more specific woman. I couldn’t find a copy of the Weird Pulp Variant by penciled by Burrows and painted by Michael DiPascale. Perhaps it’s too terrifying to view? Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape A+, Pantheon A+, Portrait A, and Women of HPL A

The story: Robert Black has been shoved off his bus into absolute chaos. He has no idea where he is; he doesn’t even know if he’s still in America. Fortunately, he’s near a bar whose windows have been smashed open and a lone patron, Eamon O’Brien, hears the man’s mutterings and goes to assist him on his way. The streets are madness personified as men are killing each other with guns, knives, bottles, and fists. Black has the misfortune to be on the streets when a union busting is occurring, and it’s spiraled into something worse. As he escorts the writer through the streets to a photographer he’s looking for, O’Brien gives a brief summary of what’s got Boston so worked up into a lather; he mentions the infamous molasses explosion of the time period and how it lead to the Letts protests. They’re soon far away from the mayhem and at the address of Mr. Ronald Pitman, who admits Mr. Black and O’Brien when the former mentions he’s met Mr. Wheatley. Exhausted, Black immediately falls asleep, and when he awakens his nerves will be soothed, while the reader’s will be shredded entirely. After the madness that ended last issue, it was good to see Alan Moore start this issue with a more physical form of insanity, in the riots, but he soon returns to things that shouldn’t be spoken of, let alone spoken to. This issue focuses entirely on Pitman giving Black an “understanding” of what the Dream-World is. On Page 14 the two men go somewhere to allow Pitman to allow Black to communicate with this location. On Page 16 someone answers. The entire sequence for King George is only six pages, but I was on the edge of my seat. If Moore has done anything with this series steeped in H.P. Lovecraft mythology the one thing he’s been most successful with is how “wrong” parts of Black’s journey are. I’m uncomfortable with what is discussed and shown, and left with the lingering fear of “What if?” What if just one of these characters that is encountered is telling the truth? If so, man is horribly blind to what exists just beyond sight. And if one of those characters and their kin decides to make themselves known to the world, the world will be undone. The horrors are now coming forward very willingly in this series, and those men that work with them are not their masters but their minions, getting something unnatural out of their alliance. If madness has a name, it must be Alan Moore. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: The visuals by Jacen Burrows continue to be outstanding, mirroring techniques of film. The first page shows this brilliantly as Black is standing in the same location for four consecutive panels, while behind him O’Brien finishes his drink. Black’s reactions are as fine as an actor at any time in history: he’s lost and confused in the first panel, the second has him horrified as an object is shown just missing him, he turns to look within the bar in the third panel, and he looks back at the reader at something that horrifies him, which is fully revealed in a spectacular full paged splash on Page 2. There are so many little details on this page — it’s a jaw dropper. It’s impossible for the reader to not have the same reaction as Black does to the scene. The most recent composition of Pitman’s is shown in its entirety on Page 12. When the two men venture into a new location on Page 14 the panels change: instead of being long horizontal panels they’ve become long vertical panels. This highlights the direction the characters are going and it superbly shows the full setting on page 15, to give the reader a clear image of where Black is, so that the reader knows where the only exit is. The most frightening panels in the issue are on Page 20. I actually didn’t want that character to come closer to the character, or to me. I was horrified with how close the individual came; anything could have happened at that point. I was was relieved when that same character moved away, as the horror had passed. The last three panels are primarily silent, and it’s the silence — the normalcy — of those panels that make the final image of the issue scream worthy. Mr. Burrows, I continue to bow down to your skills. Overall grade: A+

The colors: There’s amazing work to also be found in Juan Rodriguez’s contributions. The reds on the first page are excellent, foreshadowing the blood that’s to be found on the streets on the next few pages. The pasty flesh of Black makes him stand out considerably on this page, making him the focal point, considering he’s only in one-third of the panel and there are things flying past him. The transition on Page 13 between the two settings is fantastic, as it immediately induces a chill in the reader, which Black mentions on the next page. Coloring is also key for the speech of King George, giving it a certain flair. The most chilling color is the crimson of the last three pages, which is absolutely appropriate for what’s going on, but takes on an absolutely unholy air in the last panel. Perfect work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, this issue’s story title, and King George’s speech, as well as two characters’ distant conversation are created by Kurt Hathaway. The dialogue is clear to read, with certain words and phrases placed in italics to provide perfect emphasis for characters’ speech. The unique font for King George is wonderfully distorted to match his appearance. However, it’s the font used for a distant conversation that is the most disturbing look for text in this book, as it resembles the ancient runes of some language lost to time. Uhm, perhaps it is. Overall grade: A+

The text: Black’s journal has become that of a perfect Lovecraftian narrator. He’s witnessed and participated in something utterly insane and is trying to make sense of it. Alan Moore shows how his unknowing writer has stood at the edge of absolute madness and reasons himself back to sanity. What’s damning about the situation is that the reader is more of aware of what’s occurred in Black’s life than he is — oh, dramatic irony, you are so delicious! The first two pages of this issue’s journal are devastating, yet Black crawls slowly back from the brink to sanity. However, based on what he’s written, knowing this character’s mind, if he should encounter more of the impossible, there may be no going back. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Wonderfully unnerving as the protagonist regains his mind, while the reader knows this is only temporary. Incredible story and visuals. 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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