The Comics Fondle Podcast | Providence Party

The Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ horror masterpiece Providence has just finished, so what better time to talk about what the end of Providence means; not just for faithful readers, but for comic books as a medium.

Occasional guest co-host (and Comics Fondle blog contributor) Matthew Hurwitz of Danger Burger and Joe Linton of Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence join me for this ninety-minute special.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

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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.

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.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Providence Special

D08B61D5-84FE-4A7A-9B0D-EE1DFD74DC9E-2273-000002740AA95BADAlan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ horror masterpiece Providence has just begun its final act, so what better time to take an in-depth look back at the journey so far with a Comics Fondle Podcast one-shot?

Guest co-host (and occasional Comics Fondle contributor) Matthew Hurwitz of Danger Burger joins to chat for over two hours about Robert Black’s oblivious odyssey through the New England of H.P. Lovecraft. Join us as we take into account the many weird tales interwoven through Moore’s sprawling homage: The Call of Cthulu, The Dunwich HorrorThe Shadow Over Innsmouth, Herbert West: Re-Animator, From Beyond, Pickman’s ModelThe Haunter of the Dark, et all, plus the epic’s origins in Moore & Burrows’ previous Lovecraft comics from Avatar Press, The Courtyard and Neonomicon.

We also consider the stature Providence could occupy in the context of Moore’s seminal career and speculate as to how he might surprise his readers with the series’ conclusion.

Much trivia mentioned in this recording would not have been ascertained without the starry wisdom of Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence, whose meticulous research makes the Stella Sapiente’s archival work look like Robert Black’s dream journal.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

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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.

Chronicles of Wormwood 6 (July 2007)

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Ennis winds things up relatively quietly. There’s no return of the various supporting cast members—Joan of Arc doesn’t get a cameo, neither does Danny’s ex-girlfriend—instead, it’s just God, the Devil, the Anti-Christ and Jesus. Oh, and the talking bunny rabbit.

So it’s an intimate affair, lots of dialogue, a little sleight of hand. The problem with the issue—the first half, anyway—is the color scheme. It takes place in Hell, or at least a plain in limbo, and at night. It’s hard to make much out. Burrows’s art does come through, even the part when the reader needs to pay very close attention to something in the background, but it’s a chore.

Otherwise, it’s an excellent comic book. Ennis’s epilogue is full of humor, the kind kicked the series off with; it’s impossible not to enjoy.

Ennis ends on a quietly profound comment about friendship.

CREDITS

For the Former Things Are Passed Away; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Chronicles of Wormwood 5 (June 2007)

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And here’s where Vertigo could have made more sensational news than in its entire history… Ennis’s God is a compulsive masturbator. I’d forgotten.

Burrows really captures the full page reveal beautifully, as well as Jimmy’s reaction to it.

There’s a bunch of great scenes this issue (as usual). Whether it’s Danny beating Judas to death or running into his ex-girlfriend, Ennis is on the top of his game. The ex-girlfriend scene is touching and sensitive and good writing. The Judas scene is a little different. Ennis sets Judas up as an unrepentant jerk (which sort of sells Wormwood a little to Christians, doesn’t it?) and his beat-down is glorious. Ennis learned how to make visceral violence rewarding on Preacher and just utilizes that skill again here.

Jimmy gets a lot of great lines in; he could support his own series.

As the penultimate issue, it works great.

CREDITS

The Centre Cannot Hold; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Chronicles of Wormwood 4 (June 2007)

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Ennis is clearly gearing things up here for the finish, which is appropriate, I suppose, as he is in the second half of the series.

The beginning is more of the boys in Hell on their road trip (Jay eventually gets sick) while Satan and Pope Jacko hang out and try to figure out how to get armageddon started. There’s a lot of expository dialogue here from Satan about the history of Christianity. Ennis pulls it off, but he’s basically just on a soap box. It works… it’s just obvious.

Then the boys get back to New York and Ennis introduces another character who figures into the whole apocalypse thing. It’s a side story, one with some really funny details and opportunities to deepen Jay’s character (very sublimely, I’ll add) and give Jimmy some good lines.

The hard cliffhanger exemplifies creating tension without action.

Ennis continues to do great work.

CREDITS

Like a Bat Out of Hell I’ll Be Gone; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Chronicles of Wormwood 3 (April 2007)

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There’s a bunch of funny stuff this issue—the trip to Heaven has a great punchline—and Ennis gets in an unexpected Marvelman nod….

But for the first time, in his comic about the LAPD beating in half of Jesus’s head and the Anti-Christ being a pretty good guy all around, Ennis starts to get a little disturbing. His images of Hell, which Jacen Burrows handles without aggrandizing, are incredibly disturbing. Ennis knows how to turn the screws without a lot of effort.

Then the finale brings things a little more humorous—with Pope Jacko and Satan teaming up—but it’s not enough to recover the mood.

Even though it’s Avatar and Vertigo would never have the stones, Wormwood feels like a late eighties Vertigo book. It feels like something everyone involved is excited about and assuredly doing great work on.

Though Jay doesn’t get enough lines this issue.

CREDITS

Knocking On Heaven’s Door; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Chronicles of Wormwood 2 (February 2007)

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Ennis gets downright playful with the way he uses narrative in this issue. It’s a relatively simple move, but it focuses the reader on the page for a determined amount of time, regardless of how fast he or she usually reads. It’s a nice little trick.

The issue opens with Danny bickering with his father—his father being Satan—juxtaposed with the Catholic Church’s latest problem. The Church has gone and made a “red-blooded Australian” Pope and Pope Jacko is a fantastic foil for the story. Of course, so far, he has nothing to do with Danny, he’s just over in Vatican City being realistic while the rest of the Church is being reprehensible.

Jimmy the rabbit finally gets page time this issue too. He’s central to the finish. He’s one of Ennis’s stranger characters; Garth Ennis making a cute, obnoxious bunny. Who knew he had it in him?

CREDITS

Holy Orders; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Chronicles of Wormwood 1 (January 2007)

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one… Jesus and the Anti-Christ are sitting in a bar and….

And there’s the pitch for Chronicles of Wormwood.

While Ennis does, on occasional, embrace his readers in terms of giving them something not just profound and good but also entertaining, Wormwood takes it to another level. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s contemporary. It’s got some filthy jokes and it’s got a talking bunny rabbit. It’s Garth Ennis talking about pop culture geeks and pop culture production.

I’ve read Wormwood before, of course, but I don’t think last time I realized how he’s talking about cable television shows and he’s basically creating the perfect property for it too.

Who wouldn’t want “Cheers,” only with Jay and Danny instead of Norm and Cliff?

The first person narration is what sells the comic. Ennis paces out all the exposition perfectly.

It’s an amazing comic book.

CREDITS

Man About Town; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Andrew Dalhouse; publisher, Avatar Press.

Neonomicon 4 (February 2011)

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It’s an imaginative conclusion and it’s… okay. It’s beneath Moore, sure, and I’m sorry he took such a—there’s no other word for it—fan-fic way out. But it’s okay.

It doesn’t quite make having reread The Courtyard worth it but he comes really close with it.

Moore kind of takes something one might think is completely unsuited for the graphic form and turns it into a comic book. The issue ends with talking heads and it kills the issue’s momentum. The characters explain everything in expository dialogue.

If this series were something Moore actually cared about, he’d have spent the issue a completely different way. I’m thinking about all the time he took with Promethea. He doesn’t bother (and Burrows probably couldn’t have made it look good enough—I like Burrows, but he’s got his limits and he hits them here a lot).

Neonomicon’s a nutty, decent series.

CREDITS

The Lurker Within; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Neonomicon 3 (October 2010)

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How delayed was this book? And it reads in three or four minutes?

Here’s where Moore’s either going to go someplace interesting or he’s going to go the Avatar place….

This issue introduces this awesome possibility for the story, totally different than where the previous issue led it. And, of course, it could all just be a red herring because it does make the reader care about the protagonist and her survival. Usually, I just assume Moore’s going to do the right thing. With Neonomicon, with an Avatar book… one he wrote for tax money… it’s not clear.

Burrows’s art goes from bad to good here. The opening few pages are just awful, then he slowly brings things around.

Moore has the opportunity to—against the odds—turn Neonomicon into something good; it’s just not clear if he cares enough to do so.

I’m upset I’ve got my hopes up.

CREDITS

The Language at the Threshold; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Neonomicon 2 (August 2010)

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Is Moore trying to prove some kind of point?

It’s a little strange seeing Jacen Burrows do an actual Moore script, by the way. I’m used to far more finished artists.

Anyway… this issue is split basically in two.

The first half is Moore doing Lovecraftian fan-fiction. It turns out Neonomicon isn’t set in Lovecraft fiction, it’s about Lovecraft’s fiction. Actually, it’s about what inspired Lovecraft.

And there’s where Moore checks out intellectually. It’s the kind of thing one might except from a far lesser writer… but it’s clear Moore’s just cashing the check and moving things along and it’s not terrible. Though it’s been decades since Moore’s written “regular” people and it’s clear he’s somewhat out of touch.

Then there’s the second half.

Umm. It’s an orgy scene with a giant monster and a lot of violence. It’s revolting, sure, but interesting as far Neonomicon’s a “mainstream” title.

CREDITS

The Shadow Out of America; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Neonomicon 1 (July 2010)

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Now, I think Moore said in an interview he did this comic to pay for some back taxes. It shows, but it’s Alan Moore writing a comic for a paycheck so it still has a good level of competency… if not imagination.

About a quarter of the issue—which is mostly dialogue, as I guess Moore didn’t want to think too hard—recaps The Courtyard. Coming seven years later, I guess it’s good Avatar reprints it all the time because it’s a direct sequel. The settings are mostly the same, the cast returns.

Moore has time for some mildly gross humor. Some of that humor succeeds and some doesn’t. He’s not really trying so Neonomicon reads a little like I imagine first draft Moore reads. Or the notes he jots on napkins.

Burrows’s art has some problems and the coloring is awful.

But it’s Moore doing Lovecraft exploitation; it’s interesting.

B- 

CREDITS

At the Mansions of Madness; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Alan Moore’s The Courtyard 2 (February 2003)

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Ah, I misremembered. I thought this issue ended with an insanely graphic scene. It doesn’t, it’s all implied… which means on the second reading (or whatever) it’s a lot less intense.

There are three or four double-page spreads here, so I guess Burrows does get to do some work. It’s good he gets to do them, even if they’re gross, because the rest of the issue is pretty boring. It’s mostly scene work, but he’s stuck with the two panels a page and it really doesn’t work for someone walking up a flight of stairs.

The Lovecraft reference—the Cthulhu name-dropping—is clearer in the end, but it comes during an early Photoshop (changing color-tones—I hope Burrows got paid for each page, even though the last three are identical illustrations) and it really doesn’t matter.

I hope Moore bought himself something nice with his Courtyard paycheck.

CREDITS

Writer, Antony Johnston; artist, Jacen Burrows; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Alan Moore’s The Courtyard 1 (January 2003)

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Not having read Alan Moore’s original short story… I have to wonder if Antony Johnston added all the racial slurs to make The Courtyard seem more “authentic.”

I’ve read the comic before (so I remember the big reveal)—I did not remember, however, the titular courtyard doesn’t even show up until the second issue—but it was probably before I’d read Moore talk about comic book writing. Besides the center spread, Jacen Burrows splits every page into two long panels. Johnston includes the text; again, whether it’s his or Moore’s is unclear.

Burrows’s artwork is good, but The Courtyard doesn’t really give him a chance to do anything. His panels are mostly static, even when he’s got an actual scene, he’s still in the same two panel format (Watchmen it ain’t).

It’s also unclear how Moore weighted the original text; the Lovecraft stuff, for example, could have been more prevalent.

CREDITS

Writer, Antony Johnston; artist, Jacen Burrows; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed 9 (February 2010)

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You know what, I’m really pissed off.

Really, really, really pissed off.

Because Ennis doesn’t do something lame with the conclusion, he doesn’t do something predictable following up on that last cliffhanger. He does something else entirely.

He’s seen The Last of the Mohicans is all I’ll say. The original cut with the better music.

He does something beautiful with his story about killer rapist cannibals or whatever they’re called.

And I’m mad about it.

Because somehow the format doesn’t allow for the possibility he’s going to turn it into what he turns it into. It’s a really quiet ending about a couple people who are really upset. More upset than if they’d just poorly anticipated how Ennis was going to end Crossed.

Overall, with this conclusion, it’s one of his best works. Without it, maybe not. But he does some beautiful things here.

I feel like crying right now.

CREDITS

Writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed 8 (December 2009)

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Gosh, Garth, thanks for the miserably downbeat foreshadowing at the end.

Things are winding down in Crossed, obviously, and it’s kind of hurried. Not a lot of stuff happens this issue. Instead, it’s just a little bit of reaction to the last issue and a lengthy aside with Ennis filling the reader in on other people’s experiences outside the scope of the comic. But all of a sudden things just rev up and go full speed ahead….

Only to have Ennis do everything he can to depress the reader with the last passage.

Wait, I know what the problem is… it’s a cliffhanger. He’s finally ending an issue on a cliffhanger and it just doesn’t work. It feels overly sentimental and melodramatic and cheap.

It’s sucking the anticipation out of the story with a cute device. Ennis’s way better than a move like this one. Worries me for the finish.

CREDITS

Writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed 7 (September 2009)

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The seventh issue basically brings the story to where, event-wise, not location-wise (since they’ve been moving for the series), it would pick up before Ennis’s digressions into non-epical storytelling. In other words, the shit hits the fan.

And there’s some bad stuff, but it’s nowhere near as affecting as the old guy’s confession scene in the previous issue. It’s just bad Crossed stuff. If the reader’s given up on a happy ending–and in the case of Crossed, it’s the worst possible ending one’s preparing him or herself for–there’s nothing much more Ennis can do to shock.

So, lots of bad stuff happens. Burrows draws it really disturbing and it’s a nasty time.

Ennis does action well and it’s a good comic. It’s just what I’ve been expecting to happen since the end of the third issue and… I had hoped it wouldn’t have to happen.

CREDITS

Writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

Crossed 6 (June 2009)

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Ennis’s goal with Crossed, I’ve decided, is to make me sorry I ever said the book wasn’t going to surprise me anymore.

There are Crossed in this issue, there’s even a horse and a dog and an annoying new member of the group who’s pissing Stan off a lot because Stan feels like the first husband even though Cindy’s not interested.

There’s this whole awful flashback to Kitrick’s past and it finally makes the character visible. Even though he’s the only black guy, he’s almost not there in the previous issues. And, surprisingly, it isn’t as terrible as Ennis could have made it. There’s some restraint.

But the big surprise is what Ennis comes up with when he plays with conventions. The one guy sitting around talking about himself and what he did before takes an incredible turn (it seems like a joke for a while).

Then it ends quietly.

CREDITS

Writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Jacen Burrows; colorist, Juanmar; editor, William Christensen; publisher, Avatar Press.

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