In Providence #1 by Alan Moore, we meet Robert Black. Robert is a writer for the Herald in New York City. The world is on the edge of Prohibition, which will influence the criminal underworld’s rise to power. Robert wants to desperately write a novel, and when a coworker reminds him of Robert Chamber’s the King in Yellow as well as Sous le Monde, he begins his journey by meeting an ailing Dr. Alvarez.
Alvarez lives in an apartment that is below freezing. This is our first Lovecraftian allusion with “Cool Air.” I’ll not point out all of the allusions as it isn’t critical to the understanding of the story, and it’s unlikely those will be appreciated without reading Lovecraft. Alvarez is the motivator for Robert, who points at the Hidden America and about the Kitab al-Hikimah al-Najmiyya. This book represents Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, the Book of the Law of the Dead. The al-Khitab is the Book of the Wisdom of the Stars.
Behind all this is Robert’s lover Jonathan Russell’s suicide. Robert pretends to be heterosexual, even in his commonplace book at that end, referring to Jonathan as Lily, which may or may not have been a real prostitute whom Robert used as a beard. I got a bit confused there. Robert shirks Jonathan because homosexuality isn’t accepted, and thus, he kills himself, leaving Robert blaming himself.
This is suicide sets the tone of the series, especially when Dr. Alvarez says:
We must never discard those we are loved by. Lacking them, we are cursed.
By rebuking his lover, Robert has ended the only relationship that provided him with love, and in the end, he is left cursed, despite being unaware.
This intro to the series is pretty fantastic. The artwork is brilliant and reminds me of a movie. The storytelling is evocative, alluring, and surreal. Robert is an unreliable narrator from the get-go, which is common in Lovecraftian literature. He is a duplicitous fool, who really afraid of his own desires.
The series’ biggest weak point is its reliance on the commonplace book section at the end of most issues. These instances take up 6 to 10 pages of the ~35 page issue, and it is digitized pictures of text. All the text is designed to look like handwriting, making it quite hard to read. A lot of these entries are summaries of the story as Robert sees it in the privacy of his thoughts. A lot of details will be changed from how we see it, usually Robert talking himself out of the madness he perceives. After a few issues, I began to skim them or read synopses. Facts in the Case of Alan Moore’s Providence (https://factsprovidence.wordpress.com/moore-lovecraft-comics-annotation-index/providence-1/)
does annotations on each issue, and I thought they did a great job of explaining the relevance of the commonplace book and anything else we may not have paid much attention to on the first reading.
All in all, this is a great issue to read, and I highly recommend it.