Thursday, July 09, 2015

PROVIDENCE - Issue - 2 - a review (updated)

Robert Black recovers partially from the death of Lily, and - makes two possible discoveries about things that might lie beneath.

Caution Spoilers

Robert takes leave from the Newspaper telling Prissy he'll be back, and still playing slightly on her affection for him, but - he may be taking his leave completely of journalism to try to seek something deeper, to write his book. In the light falling on him in the first illustration he seems older, perhaps greying at the temple. This is not true of any other depiction of him.

He meets Tom Malone, in Red Hook (the police detective and protagonist of H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Horror of Red Hook'  Thomas F. Malone - who if that story comes true within 'Povidence' is fated to be physically and mentally affected by what he finds under the 'several old red brick buildings after a raid' in Red Hook, when he investigates, more deeply, the case of Robert Suydam.) Here the detective is friendly, kindly, impressed by Robert's erudition, interested in esoteria, and perhaps also gay.  (This is the first concealed thing.)

He (Malone) shows RB the Church underneath which Robert Suydam conducts occult classes - in the background the man going into the church by the upper door may also be the man with the peacock feathers outside Suydam's house later, and the short squat woman with the two men by the lower entrance looks very like the bodyshape of Johnny Carcosa's mother from 'The Courtyard'/'The Neonomicon'. There is an issue about the depiction of the inhabitants of Red Hook to which I'll return in my comments at the end.

Malone describes himself as a 'dreamer' which agrees with his wide interests in Lovecraft's story, and also perhaps suggests a possible link with Randolph Carter and Lovecraft's dreamland cycle.

Re; the Horror in Red Hook - in Lovecraft Suydam, may be the victim at first becoming 'archfiend and adversary' only when corrupted by his contact with the strange cults, here he may already be victimising others, or no one - it all depends on the nature of the second concealed thing...

That is - what does RB see under the cellar of RS's basement flat?

A psychological vision brought on by 'gas' - foregrounded by RB and Malone's discussion of Jung and the subconsciousness as 'caverns' -

A real experience of something like a ghoul (although its skeletal face, hoon hoon cry, and luminous flesh is not a staightfowardly meeping ghoul of the type in Pickman's model, though there are human bones) -

A supernatural experience of a different kind, there is a black lake with a pier whose wooden pillars are carved with marine suggestive curves ? Lilith is mentioned and the guilty RB might still imagine himself chased by a dead vengeful Lily. RS is also self-confessedly interested in the fourth kind of the defeating of death, the revival of cadavaers - and the formula used by Herbert West glows with a phospher like the creatures, at least in the films.

RS seems sympathetic, keen to stress the gnostic rather than satanic nature of Yezidi belief, openly discusses the Book of The Wisdom of The Stars - and its author (who has attributes in common with Lovecraft's Abdul Al-Hazrad, and Bierce's Hali) which would make the book equivalent to the Necronomicon, and yet avuncularly smooth evil is an obvious possibility and the reference to 'more unripe fruit' having arrived in Parker Place with its suggestion of 'fresh innocent victims' made by Corneilia together with her hesitancy and RS's rapid whispering escorting of her away, casts a shadow that remains as yet.  (But it is not 'conclusive' and if we were not as readers, perhaps in a continnua already containing 'The Courtyard'/and the 'Neonomicon' in its future, we might be inclined to give Suydam the benefit of the doubt.)

Japeth Culwen is/suggests Joseph Cuwin from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.  Does RS drop these names to see what RB already knows? Heziakiah suggests the witch from The Dreams in the Witch House.

The statue to the left of RB (our right) in all the scenes where RB and RS talk, is never shown face on, and its head is always concealed, but its body could be that of the cellar creature again.

The scars on the face of the seller of peacock feathers at RS's door could have been made by claws with a spread like those of the cellar creature, and yet he seems happy.

The commonplace book at the back maintained by RB is becoming like Lovecraft's a home for possible horror stories - and the notes as you might expect from Alan Moore are very interesting suggestions for stories - as well as a diary.  RB = protolovecraft?

The leaflet at the back will have to wait until I have a physical copy as comixology won't resolve the typeface for my eyesight. I'll return to this.

What do I think?  I love it - yet I doubt.  All the strengths and weaknesses of issue 1 are still here.
I'm interested in RB, but I'm less interested in him being 'lovecraft-lite' or worse a means of conveying to Lovecraft, material Lovecraft then is (in the world of the comic) given less credit for tranfiguring as art than he deserves. [A story in which, for example, RB eventually meets L, and L rips off his accounts and adds extra racism, would be profoundly unfair and unsatisfactory to me, and while I trust this isn't what Alan Moore is doing, in the hands of a lesser writer it would be a greater worry.]

I'm also still concerned that there is an issue with the pastiching of racism in background depictions of minorities of as grotesques, and of positioning the true defense of minority belief in people (Suydam) who are also 'framed' by the implicit story as perhaps villains/sacrificers of children (in Lovecraft the bones in the cellar as those of children, in the present art the sizes are less clear).  (It might be argued there's no more grotesqueness in their depictions than in the depictions or anyone or in real life, but
it creates a gap between what the narrative says and what the images depict which I am wary of.)
Nevertheless, the lightness, and the shading this casts on the world Lovecraft depicted on the one side, and the real world on the other is still good.
7/10  [I have adjusted this down from 8/10 on a re-read for the expanded reasons above.]

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