My patience having finally reached its end with regards the odd susurrations which emanated nightly from the fireplace in the south library, I tasked the scrofulous fool who tends to my needs with the dismantling of said edifice. Within seconds the lumpen oaf had caused to be dislodged a stone possessed of enough heft to crack his simple-minded foot in twain. Ignoring his repellent and startlingly blasphemous utterances I knelt to seize a now-revealed sheaf of papers adorned with runes and symbols which resisted my understanding even as the lower orders resist cleanliness. Shooing the shambling, nay, hopping, cretin of a manservant from the room I set about the package. And it is those contents which, together with their effects upon my quite febrile mind, I shall now proceed to relate. RAT GOD by Corben, Corben, Corben, Corben-Reed & Piekos
Anyway, this… CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED #5 Art by Gabriel Andrade Written by Alan Moore Coloured by Digikore Studios Lettered by Jaymes Reed Avatar, $3.99 (2015) Crossed created by Jacen Burrows and Garth Ennis
CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is a comic by Gabriel Andrade and Alan Moore which is notable for the effectiveness with which the pair of storytellers have, over these five issues, ratcheted up the tension, even though the ultimate result was never in doubt. If there ever was any doubt then issue 5 scrapes it all away with a sadistic thoroughness by leading us by the hand and simply and directly pointing out just how badly everyone has misjudged the situation thus far. I liked the thing with the ostrich rustling, that was sneaky. Sure, everyone knew the terrain we were in, everyone knew that things were going to turn to shit; the only question was the precise consistency and extent of that shit. Well, now we know. Now. We . Know. Shit! The only question remaining is the same as that on the old Chainsaw Massacre poster: “Who Will Survive? And What Will Be Left of Them?”
The other thing CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is is possibly the only comic which has the balls to treat Islam as a part of Western society like all the other parts of Western society; that is as a part just as likely to survive a catastrophic upheaval as, say, Christianity, ostriches or people’s libidos. But you know, don’t worry about it, let’s keep holding that golliwog thing against him, eh? (On second thoughts, since most comic book writers base their portrayals of Christians on John Lithgow in Footloose (CUT LOOSE!) maybe Islam’s better off as is). My only reservation with CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED (besides how long it takes to type) is the nature of the threat; if the Crossed are just us (well, you; I’m beyond reproach) without the social brakes on then conditioning those brakes back in will just make them, er, us again. Or maybe that’ll be Moore and Andrade’s point. In the meantime CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is an intelligent and really quite frightening demonstration of the fatal consequences of complacency. VERY GOOD!
PROVIDENCE #1 Art by Jacen Burrows Written by Alan Moore Coloured by Juan Rodriguez Lettered by Kurt Hathaway Avatar, $3.99 (2015) Providence created by Jacen Burrows and Alan Moore
If CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is a tip-top exercise in feral terror then PROVIDENCE, er, isn’t. Yet. Fairness is my curse (it’s true!) and so it’s hard to judge one issue in; PROVIDENCE is paced for the long haul (12 issues) and the slow burn’s part of the deal and also part of the terrain. The terrain of CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED is scorched earth and brazen violence, while PROVIDENCE is set squarely in the more sedate and stately terrain of H P Lovecraft’s oeuvre. That is , a terrain which appears stolid and mundane but soon crumples under the weight of the Hell which exists without. Of course before all Hell cuts loose (FOOTLOOSE!) Moore and Burrows have to spend time convincing us of the stultifying and repressed normality shortly to be torn apart. And maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, they do too good a job of that.
Mind you, some of it is just super –enjoyable, particularly Moore’s insouciant use of decompression to pump up the suspense about the guy in the park and the tasty contrast between those spicily enticing parts with the dense pudding of exposition surrounding them. Look, there’s nothing wrong with decompression but using it for everything is like putting ketchup on every meal (Tip: don’t). So it’s nice to be reminded that when used well decompression can, uh, work well. Also of note is the classy way the book concealed the exact nature of the chink in our protagonist’s armour until the precise point at which it wanted it to strike home, and sent me spinning back to reconsider much of what went before. Burrows’ stiff and largely neutral art aids this particular appearances-can-be-deceptive reveal well, and while the mannered distance of the visuals may be quite in line with Lovecraft’s signature icy disdain I like a bit more life in my lines. The only really dud bit was the text at the end where Moore doesn’t seem willing to trust his readers and so flenses any uncertainty out of the preceding pages in a way which is both exhaustive and exhausting. Also, it’s clear the book is extraordinarily well disposed towards persons whose sexuality is other than the commonly accepted norm. Hey, I’m just saying, is all. There's still everything to play for but, yeah, PROVIDENCE was GOOD!
RAT GOD #5 Art by Richard Corben Written by by Richard Corben Coloured by Richard Corben with Beth Corben Reed Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot Tingit Translations by Lance A. Twitchell Dark Horse, $3.99 (2015)
Serendipity strikes like a panther (there’s one in the book; good words there, eh? Seriously, this is Patreon level shit, people) as Richard Corben also splashes gaily about in the eldritch and gibbous influences of the Great Dour One, H P Lovecraft (with a pinch of Poe to boot). Of course the unapologetically pulpy Corben does so to blatantly different effect than Moore and Burrows’ cool exercise in control. RAT GOD is far more playful than PROVIDENCE, and all the better for it because instead of merely playing at Lovecraft Corben plays off Lovecraft.
In RAT GOD Corben has, over five feisty issues, brought the full plumminess of his fleshy and fecund style to bear on a tale of backwoods mutations, diseased family trees, pendulous breasts, Bombay Mix vegetation and splattery action. Corben’s approach to Lovecraftian lore is a far more red blooded and lusty one than the haughty reserve on display in PROVIDENCE. The collars are still starched but the necks within have a meaty quality suggesting the essential frailty their manners seek to mask. And the typically Lovecraftian catastrophic impact of dark forces on unsuspecting lives is hilariously played out in miniature every time violence sends our stiff protagonist into a burst of rag-doll-ish frenzy. As ever with Corben there’s a slapstick quality to the action which comically underlines the desperation of true violence. Sure, technically speaking writing wise Corben’s no Alan Moore, but as haphazard as his proceedings may sometimes appear, the irrepressibly antic tone of his approach can’t help but get him, and us, closer to the thing that truly scared Lovecraft - the animal in humanity. VERY GOOD!
In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits reading – COMICS!!!