Powerful Pages: Neonomicon (2010-2011) and Providence (2015-2017) by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows:
I have read some strange shit, people, but nothing quite like this. I'm combining these reviews because the two tales are essentially one epic piece of literature, with Providence acting as both prequel and sequel to its predecessor. Either collection would be oddly incomplete without its counterpart, and those who sully themselves with either piece of this demented puzzle should put all the pieces together and gaze with terror upon the work as a whole. Essentially, this is Alan Moore's take on Lovecraftian horror (Lovecraft himself even pops up in the proceedings) with stunning art courtesy of Jacen Burrows. Aside from Watchmen and his legendary Swamp Thing run, this must be considered Moore's most compelling material to date, and it is entirely possible that his writing has never been better. Yet it is also entirely true that he has never been this provocative, and both Neonomicon and Providence are extremely difficult reads. I actually had a bit of a revelation while reading this. It involves Moore's take on Lovecraftian horror. As some might surmise given this dynamic artist's knack for expanding upon contemporary mythology, he actually redefines this sub-genre and takes it to new heights in the process. He does so by taking it to repulsive lows, and therein lies the revelation. Given that Lovecraft's beloved prose is rather dated and he approached his vile musings with a dry and methodical tone, I believe that most who seek to revisit the subject matter that so enthralled him do so without really appreciating the terror and deviance that punctuates his forbidden folklore. As such, most Lovecraftian horror as we know it is a bit too quaint, a bit too intellectual, and entirely too detached from reality. Moore has no interest in paying homage or pulling punches, and he allows his twisted tale of ancient evil and tortured vessels to play out in stunning fashion without distancing his readers from the grotesque dread or the carnal depravity that this unholy descent into madness and horror warrants. I will confess that I repeatedly yearned to put this blood-curdling opus down. I found both offerings to be deeply disturbing and equally woeful. However, the writing was so powerful and the tale was so gripping that I had no choice but to see it through. Like many tales that are hard to endure but perfectly realized, it is tough to provide a fair assessment. If I give this an "A," I feel like I'm encouraging my readers to go snag a copy and dig in, and surely the craftmanship warrants as much, yet I'm inclined to spare you. Much of the art that I highly recommend is entertaining above all else, and this is quality art at the opposite end of the spectrum. It is a supreme piece of storytelling, indeed, but I'm not promising you a good time if you embark upon this journey. No, quite the opposite. Buckle up, peeps, those of you who try this one on for size may wind up emotionally scarred. That is sincerity, not hyperbole, such is the power and the spellbinding horror of Neonomicon and Providence.
Note: like Watchmen, each issue of Providence boasts supplemental material beyond the standard comic pages employed to deliver the goods. And, like Watchmen, readers must make time for this material as well. It is integral to the story.
Final Grade: A+. But I warned you. Proceed with caution. Or don't proceed at all. Maybe read Watchmen instead. I don't think anyone ever doubted their sanity as they worked their way through that testament to the grandeur of comics.
|Dark, grim, and utterly deplorable, this sprawling saga is a diabolical journey that qualifies as perahps the single most demented selection of worthwhile fiction that I have ever encountered.|