Advance Review: By Chance Or Providence (TPB)

Described as “spells of melancholy, weaving their way through the medieval landscapes of ancient curses and terrible truths”, I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book, being as I must still be the only person on the planet not to have given Game of Thrones any of my precious time.  Then I saw the inscription: – “Dedicated to those of you with crushes on your characters” and I was hooked.

This trade paperback collects Becky Cloonan’s award-winning trilogy “Wolves”, “The Mire” and “Demeter”.  If that wasn’t enough to grab your attention, there is also a sketchbook of illustrations thrown in for your viewing pleasure.

Becky Cloonan is the writer /illustrator of all the stories.  Each one feels like a mix between a flight of fairy whimsy coupled with the darkness of a world that seeks to seep into the best of the characters, deriding them for their moments of love and twisting their mistakes into almost fatal wounds.

Cloonan’s writing is sparse, in a good way, with the characters’ action speaking volumes of both their intentions and the impact of the actions.  Cloonan cleverly uses monologues to move her characters in a way that the reader can instantly recognise without the need for every panel to be explained.  The lack of words seems to have a greater purpose; without every story element being spoon fed to us, there is every chance that you will be as surprised as I was, with some of the endings of the tales.

As mentioned, Cloonan is pulling double duty as illustrator.  I  would be very interested to find out which she feels is her more natural creative outlet, writing or art.  With the book being set in a non-descript medieval time the art takes on a darkness that you would expect.  What you may not expect is level of quality storytelling that is on show.  Moving away from what I assumed would be Mignola-esque art, Cloonan  conveys the emotion of the stories, building towards the horror in each of the separate conclusions.  Cloonan’s art can appear a tad sketchy at times, but any doubt of the quality of her work is quickly washed away by the sketchbook pages, with a wealth of alternative characters that makes me hope that down the line we see more of Cloonans’ crushes.  Cloonan is helped immensely by colorist Lee Loughridge, who upon reflection is the reason for the shades of Mignola I picked up on, and letterer Rachel Deering.

Books of this quality are very rare.  Kudos to Image for continuing to sticking with its creators and realizing that with the glut of superhero books, reboots and events comics on the rack, that little gems like this can be missed and as such, they give them the trade paperback treatment.  This is definitely not a book to miss if you love the characters that become your characters.

Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Writing & Art by: Becky Cloonan
Colors & Letters by Lee Loughridge & Rachel Deering
Published by: Image Comics


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