Advance Review Of Providence #5: 'It's Like A Maze You Can't See'

For justifiable reasons, it's a big part of the series Providence, written by Alan Moore and illustrated painstakingly by Jacen Burrows, not to give any spoilers of what lies ahead, but there's certainly been plenty of speculation, and this is fertile ground for imaginative predictions based on how in-depth your knowledge of the Lovecraftian universe (or perhaps universes depending on if you try to force it all into one mythos) might be.

STK685372In Issue #4, we saw Robert Black striking out on his own and reaching his first investigative missions in New England, whence he tracked the supplier of a mysterious book which seemed to have contained a series of magical or occult procedures for prolonging life. He traced the book to an importer of sorts, and visited a family who had once had dealings with the book before being kicked out of an occult organization called the Stella Sapiens or "stella saps". I'd say that issue #4 took a turn for the fantastic very distinctly, since Robert's previous encounters with the unexplained had been rendered somewhat dream-like, or rather nightmare-like in Brooklyn. In Issue #4, we "see" magical or occult practices more clearly via the narrator, and not actually via Robert solely. That changes the tone of the series for me in the sense of kicking the tension up a notch. I begin to feel that the occult world is aware of Robert and also thinking, feeling, and moving in the story in ways beyond his ken.

In Issue #5, we're going to follow Robert on his continued hunt for the book. He's going to meet new characters whose names you'll recognize from works by Lovecraft, in the pattern of previous issues–you'll "meet" these characters at a time before their heydey and learn new dark corners of their personalities. As a hint, I'll say that four different elements from Lovecraftian stories pop up in Issue #5 alone and set up Issue #6. And, of course, that creates an uneasiness around our protagonist Robert Black since he always seems quite amiable and trusting–so far.

But for readers, what I think they'll take away from Issue #5 is not only a building sense of tension, but an increase in sensory involvement in Robert Black's own psychological experiences and also a solid building of rich ground underfoot for Lovecraft fans and savants. This world is created of Lovecraft's stories and Robert Black is definitely moving further into those known elements while facing his own unknown fate. At one point, a character comments to Robert Black in Issue #5, "It's like a maze you can't see". And that really sums up what we're seeing build up in Providence. The thing is, we CAN see it, even though Robert can't. And that's a remarkable sense of participation for the reader, and a remarkable degree of ingenuity in construction of this series from Moore and Burrows.

Oh, and just a friendly warning to be prepared to sleep with the lights on on Wednesday night, having read Issue #5.

Providence #5 arrives in shops this Wednesday, September 30th.

Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
Comments will load 8 seconds after page. Click here to load them now.