I have been an H.P Lovecraft addict since my dad introduced me to his books when I was 12-ish, never mind the sometimes turgid prose, all the references to that which his mind could not comprehend and/or the frustration that ol’ Howard wrote so few novellas or novels; there was just something about his seemingly endless ranks of intelligent, inquisitive seekers after knowledge meeting their various arcane fates that I found seriously moreish.
Speaking of incredibly clever seamless links, Alan Moore jumped into Lovecraft’s world with his graphic novel Necronomicon to great applause and acclaim. Like the great cultural finger-on-the-pulseifier I am, it totally passed me by, partly because my recent experiences of Moore, who remains possibly my favourite ever comic writer, were a bit under par. But when I did eventually catch up I thought I would hop aboard the Providence series, which are set up as a prequel and sequel to Necronomicon.
First up I really love Jacen Burrows’ artwork. There is something very beguiling about his clean, straight lines style – it suits the idea of strangeness lurking at the threshold of the everyday perfectly. There is also something delightfully literary about Moore’s story here, or rather that of Robert Black a young idealistic journalist who starts following the threads of oddness around him to the detriment of both his own safety and sanity. As in all of Moore’s best work there is loads to read here at the end of chapters* as Black’s notebooks and other materials are reproduced. You can skip it all and just stick to the comic bits if you wanted, although it would be the difference between watching a silent movie and a talkie in my view; for example you learn so much more about Black’s loves and losses.
For the true Lovecraft fiends amongst us there are all manner of playful references to all your favourite stories, particularly my own favourite the Shadow Over Innsmouth**.
Something Moore does wonderfully well here is his sensitive handling of Black’s homosexuality. In the context of the US in 1919 Black himself is the warped, twisted, detestable and unpalatable ‘other’, not the supernatural entities he starts to investigate. Moore is good enough to make you share something of his hero’s fear of being unmasked as he himself sets out to drag the monstrous into the light.
Providence is only part 1 of the series of graphic novels, there are 3 out so far and I am unclear if there will be more. But relax, read and try to avoid looking at the eldritch gateway to another dimension in the corner of the room through which the gibbering froglike servants of the elder ones will infiltrate our world, damning us to a fate as old and inevitable as starlight.
Buy this book, now.
886 Down (still).
*very similar to the reams of extra notes in From Hell or the amusing pastiches found in the various The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books.
**although on alternate weeks my true favourite is At The Mountains of Madness.