This issue of Providence manages to be the most quintessential of the series, if such a thing can happen in a twelve issue series, while also being the least horrifying. After briefly introducing H.P. Lovecraft previously, Moore now sets Lovecraft and protagonist Robert Black on a long walk through Providence together and there’s this uncanny sense of alter egos.
Black has seen all these things but his mind cannot bring itself to comprehend them. Lovecraft can imagine all these things but cannot see them. Black’s commonplace book journaling just confirms it–Lovecraft can’t see what’s all around him. It’s very strange, as the reader, to comprehend more than the protagonist and the fictionalized creator of the subject. The journaling also talks a bit about the power of words; the issue leaves one wondering what kind of comment Moore is in the process of making on Lovecraft. There’s simultaneously admiration for his imagination and dismissal of his closed-mindedness.
Of course, Lovecraft and Black can’t see the ultraviolet monsters swimming through the air in Providence, which would probably help them open those minds.
It’s a very talky issue. Burrows has peculiar framing for the scenes–the traditional Providence first person from Black’s perspective, but also some very strange stagings of characters. The strangeness of poses is far more unsettling than the “monsters,” which calls back to previous issues, and further gives this issue that quintessential feel. Only the exposition isn’t for Black, it’s for the reader. It ought to be for Black, it ought to be for Lovecraft even, but it’s for us. We’re more in on Moore’s imagination than his characters. No pun intended, I assure you.
Moore demands active mental participation. If characters move in between comic panels (I think Dave Gibbons made that observation), Providence develops between the issues. The commonplace book back matter controls the reader’s consumption of the main story, so even if you’re bulk reading, Moore’s able to slow you down.
Outsiders; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.