In Review: Providence #9

Worth reading, but with no overt scares like previous issues.

The covers: Seven covers by Jacen Burrows to find as Mr. Black arrives in Providence. To help identify some of the locations and characters I have used Joe Linton’s exceptionally detailed website The Regular cover features “The Shunned House”, a structure in Providence from one of Lovecraft’s works. The Ancient Tome cover features a faux leather book with the image of the Regular cover inserted onto it as a photograph. Very cool. The Dreamscape wraparound cover features a blinding golden light emitting from the top of a mountain which is surrounded by lava or blood. In the foreground are other rocky structures, and looking on the back portion of the image, several smoky violet bat-like creatures are making their way toward the light. This could be something from Annesley’s visions or from one of the Dream tales. The Pantheon cover, the one accompanying this review, is Yig the Father of Serpents from “The Curse of Yig” by Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop. The Portrait cover goes back to colonial times showing Etienne Routle, also from “The Shunned House”, looking over three graves. He’s holding a book titled Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars, which is mentioned in this issue. The Women of HPL cover appears to feature Eliza Tillinghast holding a lantern to the darkness, but not seeing the creatures that surround her; this would follow given the elements of “From Beyond” in this issue. The Weird Pulp cover, pencilled by Burrows but painted by Michael DiPascale, shows an image of a man pouring a green luminescent liquid onto a corpse that has no skin. The recipient is enshrouded in a matching mist that has it returning to life, reaching for the man that’s reviving it. I don’t know what story this is from, but this looks great. Overall grades: Regular A, Ancient Tome A, Dreamscape B, Pantheon A, Portrait A, Women of HPL A, and Weird Pulp A 

The story: Robert Black has finally arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, the namesake of this series. He’s greeted by Henry Annesley. The first page is shown from Black’s point of view, as he gets suspicious looks from the locals, but on Page 2 the point of view is shown from Annesley who’s wearing a pair of oddly shaped violet lensed glasses. What Annesley sees though his glasses is the city’s street and Black but also various shaped creatures flying through the air and through other characters: bizarre fish, tentacles, worms, jellyfish, etc. Black is there to speak with him about the Stella Sapiente and as they walk to Annesley’s house and workshop they discuss some of the individuals that Black has encountered (in previous issues) as source material for his book. Once in his home, Annesley tells Black about his organization and how members are ranked. Their conversation is interrupted by another character, and it’s this individual that walks with the protagonist to a new location where something happens and something is seen. The two men part when Black arrives at the residence of Howard Lovecraft. The two gentlemen talk and go to visit someone important who makes some statements that pertain to previous events and has an ability that others do not. “Outsiders” by Alan Moore is the first issue without any direct horrors occurring. With his glasses Annesley sees horrific creatures that exist beyond the notice of man, which is the basis for the story “From Beyond” by Lovecraft. These creatures do nothing to those on Earth: Annesley merely sees both dimensions existing without either noticing the other. This provides some fun play on words from Moore, as everything that Annesley says, and to some degree Black, has a double meanings. The character that interrupts the men’s discussion will have more to add to the series as he has access to an object that was mentioned in an earlier issue. Lovecraft also appears to have a bigger role than writer and friend to Black, as the individual that Lovecraft visits in the final pages says things that seem to mirror previous events. This issue is setting up the players and situations for the climax, which is only three issues away. It’s absolutely interesting to read, but possesses no direct terrors. Overall grade: B

The art: With the exception of four panels and two splash pages, Jacen Burrows illustrates Robert Black making his way through Providence. The art is so precise it leads one to believe that if one were to take this book to Providence today one would be able to follow in Black’s footsteps. The opening page has the reader seeing what Black sees, and what he sees are frowning and suspicious faces. The street scenes are what one would expect. This makes the reveal of the full paged splash on Page 2 all the better: a smiling Black adjusting his tie as creatures of all shapes and sizes flit around him. Whenever the scene goes to Annesley’s view the images are disturbing; such as when a toothy eel-like creature goes through the smiling writer’s head. This also makes Annesley’s constant smile unnerving, because the reader knows what he’s seeing. The man’s workshop is an impressively detailed setting, which will have Lovecraft fans pouring over to identify all its contents. The new character that enters on 6 is well illustrated. This individual is obviously younger than Black and Annesley, but the character is not a child; this is an impressive rendering of age in a character without being able to resort to modern day identifications, like tee shirt or hat imagery. The walk the two characters take is gorgeous, with a a long shot of a train in the distance making one long for a time when views like this were possible. The structure on Page 10 has every warning sign of trouble written on it. It is immense, strong, and forbidding. The third panel on 11 only intensifies this mood. A red flag is waved before the reader on 12 and 13 as an object in the room does not belong there. The introduction of Lovecraft is as one would expect to find the writer at home. Their walk though the city is also beautiful to look at. Pages 24 and 25 have some outstanding staging, as the reader is next to Black the entire time, but a conversation is occurring in the distance; this is a smart way to have the reader strain to see what’s happening. The final page puts the previous pages in a new light with someone seeing some things. Beautiful and creepy. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Juan Rodriguez gets two outstanding ways to employ colors to add to the eeriness of this issue. Before that’s addressed, the coloring of the real world should be addressed. Rodriguez’s work on these pages is excellent. The somber colors of the time look as though they would match the same structures today. There’s occasionally some brighter colors on buildings or in rooms, but the majority mirrors the reality of the time — dark colors: browns, blacks, and tans. The first introduction of an unnatural color occurs on Page 2 when the reader sees as Annesley does. Light violet is often used as an upbeat and festive color, but in this book it takes on a sinister quality, tainting the world and becoming darker on the creatures that inhabit the different dimension. This color stays with the reader whenever Annesley is shown, as his glasses are a magnet of attention. The second color appears on 12 and 13 for the absolutely crimson item that’s shown in only three panels. It’s the brightest color in the entire book, and deservedly so once it’s identified. Colors in this book create fear because they give slight clues into the unknown. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, the story’s title, and a distant conversation are brought into being by Kurt Hathaway. This is a dialogue heavy book, but Hathaway is expert enough to insert it into a panel without overcrowding or stepping on the visuals. The highlight is the distant conversation at the end of the book. It’s readable, but one really has to go deep into the image. This is a fantastic, and realistic, way for the reader to hear something that he or she wasn’t meant to. It’s necessary for the reader to hear what’s said since it seemingly gives clues of things to come. Excellent! Overall grade: A+

The prose: The final fourteen pages of the book contain pages from Black’s journal. It informs the reader what Black was up to before he arrived in Providence and his opinions on events. Having experienced the same events with the character, it makes for interesting reading to discover what Black thinks of them. The final two pages go beyond the last page of the illustrated story, telling that Lovecraft has loaned his most recent work to Black. This section of each book provides necessary insights into where Black has been and where he is going. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Worth reading, but with no overt scares like previous issues. Moore is setting up the pieces to finish his mad game and I have to see this through. 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.
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