A number of years ago, Avatar Press, ardent comic book publisher of the gross and distasteful, released a four issue mini series by acclaimed writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and fine-tuned illustrator, Jacen Burrows called Neonomicon.
That horror genre title, based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, has since gone down in infamy (or, to some, just in flames) due to its use of the comic book medium and the gratuitous depiction of its story. Some are enthusiastic fans of it, others would raise their pitchforks and torches.
And now, nearly five years later, comes its sequel, Providence.
Follow me after the jump for the horrific scoop!
Written by: Alan Moore
Illustrated by: Jacen Burrows
Published by: Avatar Press
Now, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of author H.P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre. I’ve got some friends who are. Although I do find some of his weird horror works utterly brilliant, there are others that I find laugh-out-loud silly. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe that silliness sometimes masks the true horror of his stories.
Still, I chuckle. (Please don’t tell the Old Ones.)
Neonomicon caused consternation amongst readers of the comic as well as with people who had just heard about it. It’s full of graphic violence including rape, bestiality and torture, not to mention a healthy dose of silliness. I’ve got a friend who is afraid to have the book in their home. David Ward, a friend and writer for this website, wrote a very reasoned piece about the “exploitative embarrassment” that is Neonomicon. You can catch that great piece here. He and I still talk about it regularly enough.
That said, Neonomicon is also a fascinating look at what sequential storytelling can accomplish. It has deep, hidden meaning in its form and structure and has a great payoff for those that have the time, aptitude, courage, and, at times, sheer will, to see the celebration of the medium – where it does things that no other medium can accomplish.
If you take that stance against the concerns of the actual story and everything it represents, a really interesting dialogue begins to take shape. This really only happens when true craftsmen of the medium take it by the reigns. And that’s what Moore and Burrows did with Neonomicon and that’s what they’re doing again with Providence, a prequel.
Providence, an eight-part series, takes place in the early twentieth century, on the East Coast of America. It’s a look at the world in which H.P. Lovecraft existed in all of its charm and hidden evils, blending racial and sexual intolerance – with weird horror fantasy, of course. It’s something that only Alan Moore could write. Even the regular cover (there are multiple covers being published) of the first issue is full of dread.
Look, Providence, like Neonomicon before it, is certainly not for kids. It’s probably not even for you. But Neo was one of the most frighteningly horrific things I’ve ever experienced in any medium – and, I still argue, an important work in the pantheon of sequential art and storytelling. How often does horror fiction get short-changed on that front? I’m hoping that Providence continues that legacy.
Make the run to your local comic book shop today and pick up Providence #1. And let us know what you think: silly, exploitative or horrifically brilliant?
Can it be something else entirely?