Note: This review covers issues 1 – 4 of Providence.
DISCLAIMER: I am dumb and often times, Alan Moore makes me feel dumber. Now on to the review.
Like many of my fellow comic nerds, I absolutely love the work of Alan Moore. Now, I’ll be first to say that not everything he puts out is golden. But this should not detract from how brilliant the man is, nor should it lessen his importance to the graphic medium.
I’m of the opinion that we should judge an artist based on their strongest works (hence why Francis Ford Coppola is still riding that Godfather/Conversation/Apocalypse Now wave; we all saw Jack; fuck that movie). But Moore doesn’t rest on his 1980s DC laurels. If anything, Moore has grown as a writer since the days of Watchmen and Swamp Thing.
Being that he’s bit of an elusive writer, Moore belongs to an echelon of comic creators that actually make me excited when I hear announcements for new work. Guys like Brain Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, and Scott Snyder always have several stokes in the fire at any given time, which makes them far more accessible, but that’s not to detract from their talents.
*Best resume ever!*
That’s why when I first heard Avatar Press was going to publish another Lovecraftian horror comic scripted by Moore and drawn by my favorite horror/shock artist, Jacen Burrows, I had to physically wrestle my erection into submission.
I thoroughly enjoyed (but didn’t love) their earlier collaboration, Neonomicon, and thought it had a lot of potential to be great, but was bogged down with Moore’s own fetishism of monster sex/rape.
I pre-ordered Providence Act 1 in Hardback the day its release was announced, and I immediately cracked its spine the day it was delivered, and about halfway through the first issue, I set the book down and walked away, wondering if I would be able to produce the energy to finish it…
This was not good. I had never had that sort of experience with Alan Moore’s work.
You see, usually with Moore’s stuff, I can’t wait to see what’s next (even in the case of Promethea where things were super entertaining at first, but ended super fucking weird). But Providence initially bored me to tears. I mean, all the elements were there: a quasi-detective story about a journalist named Robert Black researching occult stories throughout New England for a “Great American Novel” he intends to write, all the while a looming horror is just behind every door. This is a really cool setup for a story, but the book just didn’t click with me early on.
I did pick Providence Act 1 back up and powered through it, trying my damnedest to be engaged, and by the end of it, I came to two realizations:
- I like Lovecraftain stories way more than actual Lovecraft stories. Now, this is a Moore book, but the man is using such thick Lovecraft mythos to convey it, it reads like H.P.’s greatest hits, more so than Neonomicon. I think you can create a Lovecraftian story without relying so heavily on the source material (i.e. Revival by Stephen King, John Dies at the End by David Wong, True Detective Season 1 etc.) and make is stand on its own.
- Alan Moore is simply not a “grab you by the collar” sort of writer any more. I doubt very much we’ll see many “a comedian was murdered in New York” openings in future work, which I have mixed feelings about.
Look, Providence is not bad, okay. Not every aspect was a chore and some of those aspects are quite remarkable: The dialogue in this book is some of Moore’s strongest in years; every conversation was well-conceived and felt real; Jacen Burrows’ art is fantastic and disturbing (the street vendor splash page gave me chills); and some of the diary entries were really entertaining and insightful.
I’m not giving up on Providence. Eight issues have been released, which means Act 2 should be out soon (this is a 12 issue mini-series, by the way). This book does not tarnish Moore’s image in my eyes. There was enough here to pique my interest for future installments. I just hope they have a little less dreary pacing issues and a little more of this:
**”Hi, I’m not in this comic.”
Is this shallow criticism? You bet your ass it is. But what can I say? I love monsters. Give me more of them, Mr. Moore.
Final Grade: C-