Title: Providence Act 1
Authors: Alan Moore (author), Jacen Burrows (illustrator)
Genre: Lovecraftian Horror comic
LGBTQ+ Category: cis male, gay
Publisher: Avatar Press
Alan Moore’s quintessential horror series has set the standard for a terrifying reinvention of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It is being universally hailed as one of Moore’s most realized works in which the master scribe has controlled every iota of the story, art, and presentation. The result has been a masterpiece like no other and a true must-have addition to his essential works in the field.
Review by Dan
My warnings on this one are up front: it will get weird and people will be naked. This is standard for anyone who is familiar with other works by Alan Moore, but for the uninitiated, things can be unsettling. While Providence is a comic book, it is text heavy at times, giving a blend of standard paneled comic illustrations, faux primary source documents, and diary entries from our protagonist.
In Providence, Moore gives us Robert Black, a young writer for a newspaper in 1919 New York City. At first glance, Black seems to be no different from the other clean-cut, rational, and clever protagonists that litter Lovecraftian spinoffs (and, let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of comics in general). An Everyman who is about to become embroiled in a world of horror and monstrosities.
Soon enough, Black’s façade fades and we learn that our protagonist does not sit so comfortably in society as it appears. One of Black’s coworkers casually mentions the suicide of another young man, someone they believe to be an acquaintance of Black’s. Through one of Black’s diary entries, we learn that this other young man (affectionately referred to as Lily) was not just an acquaintance, but a close friend and long-term lover.
Lily’s death brings a certain book concerning occult magic and astronomy back to the forefront of Black’s mind. This causes him to set aside his current journalistic position to pursue a career in literary writing. Black gives up his lease on his apartment and begins a trek through New England to find out more about this book and the society that’s associated with it. Our protagonist has it in his mind to write a book about the outcasts of occult society, using it as a metaphor for his own lack of belonging and position in the world.
I can’t say too much about what he finds or the characters with whom he speaks because the plot weaves and blends, as does the plot in much of Moore’s work. I will say, however, that Providence will hold your interest. It breaks with the traditional cape (superhero) and horror comics to show us our own world in a skewed mirror. The world of Providence is initially indistinguishable from that of our own.
There is one point at which Black tries to draft a short story about a man who begins to encounter bizarre, supernatural events; he tries to work out how a writer could realistically keep a character involved in such events since any rational man would flee at the sign of the unnatural. Black concludes that the only explanation is that a rational man is so used to things being rational that he would try to explain away all the things he saw with science and logic, not realizing until too late what had happened. This metaliterary foreshadowing is artful and twisted in the way that few other than Moore have ever managed.
If you’re a reader who doesn’t mind an epistolary novel blended with your comic books or a gay, Jewish protagonist in a genre otherwise overwhelmed by white, heterosexual protagonists, pick up Providence.
Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.