Review: Providence #7

providence07-portraitProvidence has not enjoyed the same pacing as it’s precursor, Neonomicon. This continues to be a story for avid fans of Alan Moore or the New England horror genre vaguely resembling H.P. Lovecraft. This is not a book for a casual reader. However, for the Moore/Lovecraft fans of the world, it’s hard to resist grabbing each issue as they come out.

Newsman Robert Black left his job behind to explore enduring American occultist traditions. Hoping to understand the culture for the sake of his new book, he has passed from town to town discovering increasingly bizarre, and even deformed, communities. Now his investigations are beginning to take a toll on his mental health and he’s less sure where reality begins and ends.

This story begins by continuing to undermine the reader’s own estimation of what is going on. As violence erupts around Black while Boston riots and burns. Reality seems to warp just of Black’s attention, begging the question “has Black yet escaped the intrusions into his mind?”. The reader who demands an answer to everything will probably not enjoy this as much as the one seeking a story depicting an altogether new look on reality. That reader will enjoy this story very much.

Black meets with a photographer, named Ronald Pitman, who has worked with the communities Black has been interviewing, a man sympathetic to the horror and lingering confusion those experiences bring. However, he only has more horror to offer, if only in a more direct fashion.

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the book too much to Neonomicon but knowing this was a prequel with the same creative team, it seemed fair to expect the same abject terror that had been provided previously. This story unveils itself very slowly and, maybe appropriately for a story simply about research, with no concept of destination. While this issue has its pay-off (though nothing as stark as the mind-stealing rape scene of the last issue), the constant cryptic nature of the characters can be a bit maddening. For example, this may have been the first issue that features a scene, however short, between two characters outside of the perspective of the main character. Is there an allusion to a relationship that will be revealed later or is it entirely whimsical? When every character is speaking into their shoulder or nervously looking off-panel, the reader starts to wonder what they cannot see. It may be a demonstration of Moore and artist Jacen Burrows’s ability to capture the mind and command emotion, perfectly inspiring the paranoia and uncertainty that Robert Black himself is dealing with.

Skip this next paragraph if you’re looking to avoid spoilers.

The exploration of the tunnel, drawing visual ties to Neonomicon and expanding that world a bit, was certainly the most exciting part of the book. The revelation of the creatures living beneath Boston presented the explicit horror that my, perhaps pedestrian, tastes demand. Furthermore, the massive creature named “King George” and his relationship with Pitman touches closely to traditional Lovecraftian themes, namely the concept of unimaginable darkness living plainly, if only unseen, in conjunction with the mundane. The practice of King George and his people of eating the dead is presented very matter-of-factly, pulling man down from his position of lord of dominion and into a lower spot on the food chain. King George is sympathetic to the emotional plight of others while being very dispassionate about the practices of eating the dead who rot above. His affected-speech effectively feeds his disparity from the humans he lives beneath without being distracting.

Burrows continues to shine in this issue. His ability to create very plain and average people contrasts perfectly with how well he captures complex emotional expression. No one looks as mad and delighted as his characters, nor does any monster look to be as perfectly blended between dark fantasy and reality. From scenes of melee to the saprovores to which King George belongs, Burrow’s visions perfectly compliment the situations and characters Moore offers.

Story: Alan Moore Art: Jacen Burrows
Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read