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This is a very special review that I am doing right here in that it is not of just one issue but several. There is a series this year that has rapidly become near and dear to my heart. I know that I have called another series the pick of the year (Jupiter’s Circle), but this is really not an easy loss. Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence is an astounding tale that isn’t getting the due it deserves.
While the duo’s previous take on Lovecraftian lore, Neonomicon, was horrible and rather insulting to fans, Providence is the exact opposite. While Neonomicon, in short, was an exercise in bringing a sense of irony and reality to the world of Lovecraft, Providence goes in an entirely different route. The series instead brings the world of Lovecraft to reality, playing everything off as a consequence of the world without a wink or a smirk. In this sense, it is a classic tale in the vein of the subject matter.
Moore plays it off, honestly, rather cleverly. Using the age-old archetype of the investigative everyman, a major Lovecraft mainstay, to traverse an entire world composed of the various odds and ends of the short stories. It’s all stitched together rather wonderfully, not only using the connections that Lovecraft himself made, but piecing portrait along lines that not only compliment the short stories but gives the series a great sense of flow. When trying something like this there’s the worry that it might feel forced, but Providence strides the line with grace.
Moore isn’t the only one bringing something special to the table either – this is something that I might rank as Jacen Burrow’s best work. The artwork with Avatar Press isn’t really one of their high points. They usually go for artwork that highlights the visceral, ending up with greasy looking artwork that generally gets the job done. Burrow’s is the standout, generally, due to having the most standard and neat art of the stable – but I’ve never been impressed otherwise with his work – until Providence. His work on this series has, without a doubt, catapulted him near the top.
A lot of Lovecraft’s work relies less on the character work and more on setting the general atmosphere of the tale. Not only in the setting but in the looks of the characters – in particular two sets that we have just passed: the “Innsmouth” Folks and Wilbur Whateley. Both have distinct characteristics in form that, under an amateur hand, might come off as too blunt and just generally silly. Burrows, however, not only creates designs that work with what the short stories gave, but also are different from other versions that I have seen before. It brings the right amount of juice.
I think the best part of this series is something that it’s predecessor utterly failed at – injecting sexuality into Lovecraft’s asexual world. Being an Avatar Press series it seems mandatory for some nudity, but with Providence it seems more of a consequence than a showcase this time around. It shows up where it has to and where it will have impact – but not needless impact. It brings the air of sexuality without breaking what the stories are there for. Moore and Burrows have really learned this time around and a third of the way done, I can’t wait for the rest.