Providence (2015-2017)

Providence (2015-2017), written by Alan Moore, artist Jacen Burrows

Providence is both a sequel and a prequel to Moore's own Neonomicon, chronicling the events that lead to the awakening of the old ones in modern day America and what happens after the end of Neonomicon.

Robert Black is a gay journalist, working for the New York Herald a bit before prohibition takes place. He's a man brooding on more literary aspirations when he finally gets a jolt to take leave of absence from his work after a suicide of his lover. This unfortunate event tied to a recent interview that handled the issues of the occult, Robert Black decides to head to New England, where he wishes to uncover the world of old believes rooted in the modern society, thus basing his upcoming novel on the notions of occultism, mysticism and gods long dead and nearly forgotten.

More than 500 years ago a mad Arab Khalid Ibn Yazid wrote an alchemical text called "Kitba Al-Hikma Al-Najmiyya" or "Book of the Wisdom of the Stars." For ages, it was thought to be a hoax until it finally found its way to a publisher, who decided to print it in order to see if there would be a business venture there. For a time, the copies of it revolved in the old continent until it finally found its way to Salem in the USA before the famed witch trials.

The book left its mark in a form of a secret society that was formed around it. This secret society named Stella Sapiente found the truth in the wisdom of the mad Arab, linking his thoughts on dreams, technology, occult and science into a map that would lead into a dawn of new age. Age, that was seen waking up in Neonomicon and which is seen stirring on Providence during the journey of Robert Black, who doesn't fully grasp what is going on around him, believing that he is slowly losing his mind in grounds of the tragedy of his lover.

The works of H.P. Lovecraft are an important source, as you'd expect, to the story as a whole. Not only does Robert walk the same paths Lovecraft's many stories did, many of the fabled author's stories are referenced during the 12 episodes of the tale. Events from the pages of Lovecraft happen during the voyages of Black, characters from his stories interacting with the aspiring author directly, some even befriending him.

But it's not only fictitious people that make an appearance, as some real people make an appearance as well, one of the biggest being Lovecraft himself, whom Robert Black meets and befriends despite his not so favourable outlook on people like Robert. There are others as well, who pop up, albeit briefly, like Robert E. Howard of Conan fame, as Moore didn't forget the fact that Lovecraft was an avid letter writer, who corresponded with several people at once.

As stated, Robert himself is mostly oblivious of all this, as even when something mysterious happens to him or he sees human/monster hybrids, he just either suspects his own mind or believes he is seeing some sort of a result of long-lasting inbreeding. On the grand scheme of things, Roberts knowledge of the matters doesn't greatly sway things in one way or an another. what needs to happen happens regardless.

This aspect of the story, things being predestined to change no matter what the people want, does nicely tie on the struggles of Robert Black, as he as a gay man has gotten used of hiding what he really is, as the society wouldn't be tolerant for his orientation. But just like the dreams of the old ones come to pass, so comes pass the change in society, where merely a hundred years later homosexuals are far more accepted part of the society.

Of the 12 chapters, first 10 are half narrated through comic book fashion, the other half is told from the exact perspective of Robert Black by including his commonplace book he kept during his travels. Through this handwritten book, Moore shows more of the thoughts of Robert as well as sheds more light on his mental state as well as fleshes out situations that happen unseen of the comic itself or give more perspective on things seen.  Like you'd expect, the commonplace parts shed more light on Black's inner turmoil, but also flesh out the story ideas he's pondering during his long trip.

Providence is a series I'd highly recommend you to read. It does mostly work as a piece of its own, as most of it takes place before Neonomicon, though after you get to the 10th episode, reading Neonomicon would be advisable, as the last 2 books tackle things taking place after it. In any case, Providence is masterfully written and illustrated graphic novel and easily among the best works of Moore. And if you know Moore, then you know that saying this is among his best is a high praise indeed.

Providence is available through digital vendors like Comixology as well as in printed form, so take your pick if you are interested.  Personally, I can recommend it.

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