Providence 12 (March 2017)

Providence #12

Providence is over. In less than two years, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (and Avatar) have gotten out this series. No offense, but none of them are known for being speedy. But it’s finished. It gets to go on a shelf soon, next to the other Alan Moore hardcovers. It’ll make it into bookstores, it’ll make it into libraries; given it has a Lovecraft “hook,” it’ll be discovered and rediscovered through that connection.

But it won’t permeate, which is fine. We don’t live in a world deserving of Alan Moore appreciation.

There’s going to be time to read the comic again, in one sitting. There’s going to be time to read it again in whatever other way Avatar figures out how to package it. Gigantic hard cover. Late, of course.

And there’s going to be more to find, because Moore works in serial narrative to provide a cohesive finite reading experience too. Who knows what kind of panel echoes there will be throughout Providence next time.

So how’s the comic? It may be a little divisive. Moore has a very personable, loose writing style when he wants. Is life but a dream… sadly no. But reading should be. It’ll be interesting to see how that theme echoes through the whole series. Moore doesn’t cheap on the comics for the issue though. He and Burrows deliver a great finish. The art is crazy controlled. Providence has always needed an oversize printing, but this last issue just goes further with it.

Providence probably should be read when wearing a VR headset and each panel filling your field of vision. The detail’s so good, it should be immersive. But it’s the last issue of Providence and one wants to read it, not dwell on every background detail. It’s the end of the world, everyone gather round.

Providence is done. I wonder when the hard cover comes out.

CREDITS

The Book; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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Providence 11 (November 2016)

Providence #11

Reading this issue of Providence, I expected a lot of things. Moore didn’t do any of them. Even when he hinted at maybe doing something in the direction of an expectation, he didn’t do it. He weaves this beautiful closure to everything he’s been doing not related to the Lovecraft. And he gets to the Lovecraft too a little bit, but it’s less subtle. It’s not forceful, but it is more obvious to the reader. The other things, as they relate to Robert Black specifically, aren’t obvious to the reader or to Black. But the comic isn’t just about Robert Black’s story, it’s about Lovecraft and the Lovecraft world and what Moore’s doing with this series. Providence is about Providence.

Moore takes the pomposity associated with Watchmen, pomposity he never intended that comic to sustain, and he applies it to Providence. Providence is big. Alan Moore’s comics for Avatar are downright cinematic and this issue of Providence is a CinemaScope epic complete with musical accompaniment. I should probably listen to the song.

Yeah, listen to the song and read it again.

But the point is that Moore does something big and unexpected. He’s got an entirely different finish for Providence than he suggested. And given the importance of the commonplace book, it was definitely meant to be awesome, but also be distracting. Moore has distracted the reader just as Black has been distracted. It’ll be interesting to read it through again.

Great art from Burrows, of course. A perfect issue of Providence, which is just about as perfect as a comic can be.

CREDITS

The Unnamable; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 10 (July 2016)

Providence #10

Well. Providence. Robert Black gets his comeuppance for a lot of inept behavior earlier in the comic. He also finds out Lovecraft is a bigot, not to mention how sometimes the universe rewards endeavors. It’s not a weird comic because what’s so great about the reveals is how Moore started building towards them so long ago, but still keeps them relevant. It’s a masterfully written comic book. The only thing Moore takes more seriously than the Lovecraft stuff is the humor. It’s so sad and it’s so funny.

Burrows plays into that success–he’s got a lot of wonderful detail on protagonist Black as he’s having revelations about what’s really going on. There’s visible intensifying of the character’s stress; it might be as obvious as sweat or just how he’s holding his hands. Burrows’s art is phenomenal, which is even more impressive when one takes into account how strange the comic gets.

Moore opens with horror, then he goes over to uncomfortable social stuff, only to go further and start thinking about the end of the world. Then he closes with a horrifying, hilarious final reveal–amid what should be the ominous ceremonies to bring back an Elder God or whatever. It’s nuts.

And then the back matter is awesome. Moore and Burrows have fully trained the reader by this point to accept the comic book narrative as truer than the commonplace book back matter, so when they flip how it works, it’s just great.

It’s an excellent comic; of course it’s an excellent comic, it’s Providence.

CREDITS

The Haunted Palace; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 9 (May 2016)

Providence #9

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.

It’s breathtaking.

CREDITS

Outsiders; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 8 (March 2016)

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Is it possible Providence may not fulfill all those terrifying promises Moore has made to this point? The series is in its second half and Moore just surprised me with the most obvious narrative development–H.P. Lovecraft. Providence can be homage to Lovecraft, but I never thought he was going to pop up. It changes things. Obviously, the protagonist isn’t going to end the series well–does any Lovecraftian protagonist ever end a story well–but the world might not end.

But it’s Moore and Providence does nothing if not surprise, so I’m assuming I’m not going to guess it right. During the comic, Moore doesn’t encourage contemplations about the next reveal. He’s too concentrated on guiding the reader’s experience, letting the issue’s lettering choices pace out its visual consumption. He delights with the exposition, he delights with the way he conveys it.

Moore juxtaposes how he writes to guide the reader’s experience of the book with how he writes about the protagonist’s experiences with guided hypnosis. Again, thanks to the back matter diary, Robert Black has become the eyes the reader uses the experience most of the world of Providence. So Moore wrapping a couple layers around this visually stimulating, jarringly paced jaunt through dreamland? It’s amazing.

Then Moore just goes back to the comic, goes back to the story. The back matter has a couple soft reveals about the events in the issue. Moore’s got a far more amiable tone this issue. He’s enjoying telling the story.

While often disturbing, Providence is just such a well-told story, it gives you the warm tentacle slimies.

Gorgeous Burrows art as always. The way he and Moore pace out the narrative visually is peerless. They’re an excellent, sort of unlikely team. Burrows has a pragmatic feel to his art and Moore utilizes it to better convey the story.

Another awesome issue.

CREDITS

The Key; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 7 (January 2016)

Providence #7

Robert Black is not a likable protagonist. He’s a sympathetic protagonist, with Moore pulling on the heart strings a little in Black’s sanctimonious stupidity, but he’s not likable. He’s a self-important tool and his inability to change makes his troubles somewhat sympathy inducing, but not enough to overshadow the rest of the book.

And, in this case, by rest of the book, I don’t even mean the illustrated portions of the comic, but more of the written back matter. Moore’s trying, with the back matter, to teach the reader how to read Providence, how to imagine Providence. It’s almost like Moore’s giving us his notes and asking for our opinion.

Of course, the comic matter of this issue of Providence is excellent. Moore does two or three surprise reveals in the back matter–things Burrows illustrates in order to hide something for later, thereby changing not just one understanding, but affecting all subsequent ones. I do wish I had read the book once without any of the back matter. I wonder if I wait long enough after the series finishes, if I can see how it works just as the comic.

Some great art from Burrows. Nice mixed media approach. And Moore introduces one of Providence’s first lovable characters. He’ll probably eat Robert in the last issue.

It’s another great issue. Providence is superb.

CREDITS

The Picture; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 6 (October 2015)

Providence #6

Moore is such a show-off. He really does manage to include the reader in the appreciation of his deft moves. It’s that eighties vibe. Look what we’re going to do, me by writing, you by reading. Moore makes Providence feel like he’s just coming up with it after every scene change. It’s stream of consciousness only it can’t be.

The main part of the story has some really creepy art from Burrows–after an awesome open with Robert in a presumably dangerous situation–as Robert reads. A lot of the comic is about someone reading. And the read material doesn’t factor in. It’s all about the visual pacing. Moore talks about the read material at length in the back matter, which works beautifully.

There’s a big awful, amazing scene in the last few pages. Robert finds out what’s going on. Some of it. Only it’s not the stuff the reader already knew about, the stuff Robert is too oblivious to notice. It’s big Providence stuff, showing Moore definitely has something in mind for the entire series.

It’s so good. Moore finds a way to make horror incredibly accessible, not too gory, and infinitely disturbing. With Burrows’s able assistance, of course.

CREDITS

Out of Time; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 5 (September 2015)

Providence #5

This issue of Providence has the creepiest experience for protagonist Robert Black yet–and he still isn’t getting his precarious situations. Moore brings in some other Lovecraftian elements I recognize–a toxic meteor and a peculiar fellow working in a university’s medical department–and I imagine the big twist for Robert Black, dream sequence or not, is out of a Lovecraft story.

At five issues, however, Moore and Burrows have successfully reached a point where the homage is tertiary. Black’s story, how Moore is positioning the comic as both a comic and a literary work–I think the back matter this issue takes longer to read than the front matter–those elements are what makes Providence such significant work. The Lovecraft stuff is the questionably necessary MacGuffin.

Providence is a mystery, but one where the protagonist is blissfully unaware (even after this issue) of the dangerous situations his ignorance lands him in. It gives Moore the chance to be funny while still preparing the reader to be terrified.

The contrast between the scenes as realized by Burrows and how Moore presents them in the protagonist’s diary is, as always, wonderful and disquieting. The scariest part this issue comes in the prose back matter. I’m not sure if Moore and Burrows are lulling me or not, but the idea of first person fear over third person is an engaging one.

CREDITS

In the Walls; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 4 (August 2015)

Providence #4

Unsurprisingly, Providence continues to impress, but–and maybe surprisingly–this issue doesn’t up the ante much as far as terrifying the reader. There are Lovecraftian elements around and there’s almost realization from the narrator in this issue’s back matter (which has Moore’s most obvious attempt at telling the reader to pay attention; he does it well and necessarily), but it’s not exactly scary.

Moore’s suspects–the players in the story–aren’t particularly dangerous as of yet. Maybe because they say they aren’t dangerous to the narrator, who’s just a visitor in their stories, not a participant or person of consequence, or maybe because they show concern. Moore’s doing a lot with the idea of town and country with Providence–which is somewhat strange, given the history and look at how people are treated differently is for New Englanders, not the British. It’s just his dedication to the project.

Reading the lengthy back matter, one has to wonder how much of it will eventually matter and how much of it is just Moore doing his job. He’s making Providence a filling read for its audience. He’s respectful of the reader’s time, respectful of the reader’s attention.

It’s an awesome, mellow comic. The one horror Moore does imply is so outrageous, one can’t truly fathom it so why try. Plus, Moore tells the reader not to try fathoming it. Subtly, but forcefully.

CREDITS

White Apes; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 3 (July 2015)

Providence #3

It’s so good. It’s so painfully good. Not just in how Moore gets to all the somewhat familiar Lovecraft moments. Again, the disclaimer–I haven’t read Lovecraft, just read or seen Lovecraft-inspired stuff–so when I recognize something, it’s because it looks like In the Mouth of Madness all of a sudden.

But Burrows goes away from the traditional 1920s cities to a rural town, which raises these questions about how things are going to develop. Moore’s script, Burrows’s visuals, they engage the reader to ask more theoretical questions. If Moore’s actually doing some kind of “prequel” to Neonomicon (which is fast getting to be the dividing point in Moore’s post-ABC career, from Top Shelf eccentric to redefining horror comics), how much does it connect? Is it an actual connection or just Moore enthusiastically showing off tonal connections for the equally enthused Moore reader?

Of course, Moore never makes it feel like a fan club newsletter. His connection with fandom, just as it was back in the Swamp Thing days, puts craft and work above all else. Story, both in writing and in art, is king.

So, as a comic, Providence is great.

Except it’s not just a comic because Moore’s got more of the protagonist’s diary (in prose). The comic’s third person, the diary is first person. The differences, which Moore still somewhat uses to shock but not much… well, those differences change Providence again. Moore’s not satisfied with making “horror comics” a real genre, he needs to break it into an entirely different genre.

And never makes it seem like showing off.

CREDITS

A Lurking Fear; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 2 (June 2015)

Providence #2

It’s so good.

Providence is so good. This issue is creepy–from the cover alone–but also somewhat touching as protagonist Robert meets a fetching police detective while looking into a mythic Arabic text. It’s a talking heads book, beautifully composed with lush backgrounds and lots of visual information.

Providence is, even at the end of this issue, just drawing the reader in deeper. Moore again has very important back matter (though the protagonist’s diary is far more affecting, if not important, than “reprints” of scholarly material on the Arabic text).

Burrows’s art isn’t particularly precise. He’s rushed–some of his faces have a lot more personality than others (unless it’s going to be part of the narrative)–but he captures the mood perfectly.

The talking heads nature does mean there’s not a lot of development, not even after the back matter. The treading water doesn’t matter; it’s all good.

CREDITS

The Hook; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Providence 1 (May 2015)

Providence #1

I’m not sure what to make of Providence. The first issue doesn’t have much going on except flashbacks and talking heads scenes–writer Alan Moore is establishing his protagonist (and then writes a bunch of necessary back matter to get a better idea) while he’s got artist Jacen Burrows establishing the setting. It’s 1919. It’s Manhattan. Something is afoot.

Providence’s protagonist is a rookie–or, at least, newish–newspaper reporter. He’s also gay. The way Moore handles that revelation is interesting. He foreshadowed some kind of secret (though hinted at another one) but the scenes are beautifully written. All of the flashbacks do fantastic character work, but the romantic ones have a depth to them. They’re controlled, sure (it’s Moore), but they’re also extravagant.

The majority of the comic deals with some arcane texts; they cause people to commit suicide. Or so the protagonist is investigating.

Providence definitely intrigues.

CREDITS

The Yellow Sign; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juan Rodriguez; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

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