Providence, the new comic book by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows just published its ninth issue from Avatar Press, Bleeding Cool's owners.
Dubbed his "Watchmen of horror", it takes the stories and life of HP Lovecraft, finds the real life inspirations of many of them, looks at the world and both the social, political and sexual realities of the time and find a way to knits them together into a new narrative. In that respect I find it something closer to From Hell.
And just as with works like Watchmen, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, there is much to unpack from them who wish to do so.
Such as Facts In The Case Of Alan Moore's Providence, a team dedicated to stripping apart every page and panel for influence, inspiration and impact.
You don't need a full understanding of HP Lovecraft to enjoy the comic, but it can enrich the experience and the annotations give you both a Cliff Notes-style understanding as well as the opportunity to explore the relevant details yourself.
Along the way they unearth discoveries – such as how the "ghoul's photograph" was made for issue 7 – and identifying the assaulted policeman in that photo as Andrew Buckley, the actor who plays the Clown in Moore's Show Pieces film.
If you've been reading Providence and want to go deeper while waiting for issue 10, it's the perfect opportunity…
Take the very first panel of #9.
The setting is a train interior at Union Station, Providence, Rhode Island. The date is November 14, 1919.
Robert Black's reflection in the middle of the train window. His image is ghostly, translucent, in contrast to the people on the platform. This foreshadows visually how he will be treated as an outsider, and how he isn't necessarily entirely in the same reality as the rest of Providence.
Black seeing his own reflection also contrasts with Henry Annesley's extra-perceptive glasses. Black sees his reflection dimly, while Annesley sees an invisible world teeming with creatures.
The sign reads "Providence" for Providence, RI. Or, as commenter cent points out, not exactly: "the ID is missing (significantly for robert, cut off from true familiarity with his own cavernous depths), leaving PROV-ENCE… which is to say, robert is "en provence", out in the provinces – and attracting all sorts of unwelcome attention with his big-city attire and demeanour. an outsider, for sure."
And that's from one panel without dialogue and hardly any identifiable characters or settings. Although sometimes they are as brief as they need to be.
The segmented worm moving invisibly through Black and Charles' crotches suggests the homosexual attraction which is implicit in the subtext between the two.
Pick your issue, pick your page, pick your panel, find providence…