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There is nothing quite like Providence on the shelves at the moment. Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows have crafted a horror epic like no other. Not only does it come with brilliantly immersive writing, but rich and poetic art. The aspect that will bring it to the halls of fame, however, would have to be that it is actually scary. Horror is hard to convey in comics, unless you’re aiming just for gruesome – and so many have. Far and wide, series have failed to capture the right tone and atmosphere, which is hard when you’re playing with flat pieces of paper usually segmented into a grid format. Yet, Providence #10 continues being truly terrifying.
This marks the issue before the penultimate one of this landmark series that is probably going to be recognized as the final word in Lovecraftian fiction, besides the masters themselves. If you ever felt that the series had dragged on with main character Robert Black’s revelations, then this issue should put you at rest. Moore clearly knew what precise moment he wanted the curtain to fall, and it’s a masterstroke of narrative when it finally does. The scene is like no other in the series, which has been dialogue packed, in that it isn’t broken up with overt supernatural forces. It’s completely benign, and in that sense cannot be denied.
The biggest complaint I have heard about this issue is not that it’s bad, but that it feels like a perfect conclusion to Robert’s story. Indeed, in many ways it is exactly that, but not quite in the way that is being described. The issue is the summation of the entire journey, to remind both Black and the reader about just how all of the pieces fell into place to make this happen. Facts that are necessary for Robert’s development and later turmoil as the issue comes to a horrendous close. A fan favorite character makes his return in the closing pages, and such an appearance is truly the belly of the beast for Robert. A nauseating, obscene, and chilling scene that is portrayed to perfection.
Burrows is, again, no slouch in this department. The cold, technical way that he creates this world works wonders in issues like this where not much happens. His fantastical upgrade in art quality allows him to take so many innocuous scenes and give them life and eerie, tense denouements of character and pathos. The crux of the issue, if not the entire series, hinges on a simple conversation between two rather dull characters being successfully sold to the reader as innately terrifying. A lesser hand might not have pulled it off, but Burrows was that lesser hand and so knows what to avoid.
Perhaps the most difficult scene to try and not spoil revolves the walking spoiler fan favorite. It’s one of the most spine chilling scenes I have seen in comics anywhere as of late. It’s not something that dwells on the grotesque or the animalistic, it’s cold and could be mistaken for serene, if not for a few choice artistic details and design aspects. Again, not to give too much away, but like a similar set-piece in Providence #5 and #6, it shows how far Moore has come in bridging Lovecraftian tones with the sexual. Horribly mishandled in Neonomicon, Moore now has found the perfect recipe, and immaculately manufactured by Burrow’s steady hand.
Providence #10 is yet another reason why this series will be missed once it is gone. It is a diamond in the rough, a story that could have only be told by one (or two) of the greats, and a bearer of whatever legacy Avatar Press leaves. I cannot wait to see how this series ends, even with a secure amount of Lovecraftian knowledge, it is still an engaging mystery. Where will Robert Black end up when all is said and done? If one has followed the clues it is obvious, but if it were obvious then why is everything just so suspenseful? Good writing.