Let’s begin by returning to the idea of Alan Moore infusing the Mythos with an emotional current and introducing the alien to well, the alien. I am undoubtedly one of those strange folk who doesn’t view the Old Ones with any real sense of dread or horror. I wouldn’t say I’m a full blown frothing at the mouth Cultist, but I often do wonder what life would be like if such things were true. One could argue a sympathy with these extra and ultra-terrestrial horrors in Lovecraft himself, particularly in later tales such as At The Mountains of Madness wherein we are given not only a loose Mythos timeline, but also a selection of the vast menagerie of Lovecraftian fauna. In a recent interview Alan Moore reiterated the idea that Lovecraft viewed his entities as beyond good and evil. Arguing, as Lovecraft and many others have, that our limited physical form, it’s apparatus and understanding are what make these beings appear indifferent or magically malign.
Providence stands out with its portrayal of the heartfelt and passionate in a Mythos conceived by someone who was almost exceptionally asexual and reserved. In Providence‘s first issue we had the Doctor and the Landlady, by the second we had some affectionate displays between Black and Malone, and in this issue we have the almost youthful exuberance and devotion of Jack Boggs to not only his wife but his way of life. Our time with this character was brief but I don’t know, I just liked him. He and his peers among the people of Salem are quite likeable in a kooky sort of way, and by the end of this issue one almost seems a little sad that Black has left them. Indeed their lack of acceptance from other haughtier Salem folk and inevitable fate at the hands of J. Edgar Hoover seems framed in a sense of injustice or intolerance.
Intolerance and miscegenation, seem to be another set of themes developing as Providence progresses. Looking at the greater narrative arc that is comprised of the Courtyard, Neonomicon and Providence and this is definitely something Moore discusses with us. These were concerns of Lovecraft also, but in a lightly different manner. The analogy is of course simple but no less powerful. As Moore stated in the Mirror of Love lecture, whenever you see Fascism just stamp it out. By showing us the prejudices of the past we become more aware of the outright prejudices of the present or the proclivity towards the manifestation thereof. Moore and Burrows’ ability to weave Providence into the fabric of a factual and fictitious time before the rise of Nazism serves not only as a lesson, but also signposts the road we are potentially sleepwalking along.
The Lurking Fear borrows heavily from The Shadow Over Innsmouth. However the changes are essentially inversions of the mood of that work. In Lovecraft’s story it is the Cultists who dominate and are portrayed, for the most part, as secretive and malevolent. In Moore’s work the Friends of Oannes are a seemingly likeable eccentric offshoot of Christianity and they are in the minority, particular after some prior infraction and oppression. These quaint and genial folk are seemingly a world away from the nihilistic perversions of the group who kidnap and rape in Neonomicon. However after a reading of the Church of St. Jude pamphlet one realises that they are not entirely wholesome, though still quite perversely likeable and quaint.
This almost mercurial sense of morality is the crux of the Mythos and can be best explained in Lovecraft’s own philosophical idea of Cosmicism. This philosophy is born of our ever increasing knowledge of the immense quality of space and a true apprehension of the vast scale of time. Cosmicism posits that man and all he holds dear is essentially insignificant on such a grand stage. Furthermore even if humanity were able to go beyond its own ignorance and and arrogance to comprehend all this they would surely regress rather than progress. Providence as a whole seems to serve as an apt metaphor for this outlook. Black serving as humanity itself blithely walking onto a stage of which he appears to have little to no interest in beyond its ability to reinforce his own agenda. I already spoke of a fickleness to his character, and when Black is faced with that which does not fit into his model of reality he is quite quick to disregard it, either through simple ignorance or plain fainting. As his quest for Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars progresses and his, or perhaps our, knowledge of the Stella Sapiente grows there is a definitely a sense of something greater at play here. Especially when we consider Neonomicon and the Courtyard alongside Providence and all the many ways in which they tie into each other. Some aeon long conspiracy, plan or war is very much hinted at. Though as yet Black’s role in this isn’t clear. He may not even have a role, and in light of Cosmicism principles this would not be too much of a surprise.
What does seem significant, but again is brushed aside by Black is his dream. Dreams, and even waking visions are an essential aspect the Mythos. Cthulhu, and other entities, reach out to sensitive souls through them. The protagonists of Dreams in the Witch House and Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath travel to other realms through them. We have had a dream and a waking vision in both Neonomicon and the Courtyard respectively. Each of which has given us some insight into the world Moore and Burrows are crafting. Again one could argue that we are shown something framed in the past but presently relevant. Though not the apparent intention the scene in Black’s dream where he encounters Boggs could serve as a comment on the all too present refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. I’m sure the folks over at Facts In The Case of Alan Moore’s Providence can provide a full exegesis of the dream sequence. For me however what stands out from the dream sequence, alongside that foreshadowing of Nazism, is the importance of Black’s book. This and also that as he wakes we see him nearly shed tears for the first time since the announcement of Jonathan/Lilly’s death.
As I finally finish this write up issue #4 has just dropped. I’ve go to tell you all, even before I start a write up immediately after I finish this, it’s a cracker. One that is perfectly foreshadowed by the Lovecraft quote one finds on issue #3′s back cover.
See you in Athol!