Monday, October 19, 2015

OCTOBER COMICS (2015): Providence #5

Written by Alan Moore, art by Jacen Burrows, colors by Juan Rodriguez, letters from Kurt Hathaway

Alan Moore’s latest series from Avatar, the first handful of issues have been a slow burn, with little development to see, as of yet (of course, once the full twelve issues are complete, I imagine there will be many threads weaving back to these initial installments; so I can’t pass judgment yet).  A deeper exploration of Lovecraft and the themes surrounding his works, there have been hints at what may come, but, as with the plot development, there has been little in the way of horror.  That changed with the latest issue, number five. 

The protagonist, Robert Black, is continuing his travels through New England in search of an idea he can expand into a novel, all the while encountering strange things and people that he manages to explain away, but which those of us reading recognize as Lovecraftian monsters.  Now in Manchester, New Hampshire, Black is hoping to examine the copy of the Kitab mentioned in the Suydam pamphlets in an earlier chapter, which is supposedly held at the library of St. Anselm College.  But the library is closed, as Black arrives, and he must find a place to stay.  Sent to the outskirts of Manchester, Black finds a worn-down house where a single, elderly woman lives.  She agrees to let out an attic room to Black, and things get weird.

The first indication that something strange may happen is when Black is being led up to the attic, and his room.  As he passes a window on the stairwell, the “camera” pulls outside the house, as if something from without were watching and waiting.  It is used again as Black returns back down the staircase, a single, ominous image that tingles at the spine.  Later, Black is aroused from his slumber by the older woman renting him out the room.  She is sitting in the corner of the attic, stark naked, suckling a creature that has the head and upper body of the creepy man who gave Black a ride into town in his oxblood roadster, while the lower half of his body appears to be that of a large rat/human hybrid.  It is unsettling, an intrusion into Black’s private space that would unnerve any of us in the same situation.  He quickly dresses while the woman sits there, calmly suckling this odd monster, and escapes the house (with a now-full moon hovering above the landscape where a crescent earlier resided), only to have the oxblood roadster approach him, the strange man asking if he can take Black anywhere.  Then Black awakes, back in the attic room, but it’s now empty.  Again, he dresses, packs his suitcase, and escapes, fleeing to the home of a medical assistant from St. Anselm who offered a place to stay, if Black found nothing. 

It’s the idea of intrusion upon a place, even a temporary one, where we, if put in Black’s position, might expect a degree of privacy.  Couple this with the matter-of-fact manner with which the old woman speaks with Black, as she suckles the stunted monster on her naked lap, and this entire scene is rife with unease and discomfort.  The mundanity of the situation, as much as anything, sparks this scene with a sense of horror that lingers after you’re done reading.  And I feel like this may be the turning point in the narrative, where things will start to get more unnerving and begin to move forward into darker, uglier realms of the soul. 


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