By Chance or Providence (Image Comics)
Word & Pictures: Becky Cloonan
Colours: Lee Loughridge
A Hunter in pursuit of a strange and powerful monster lurking in the King’s Wood.
A young squire charged with delivering a message to the strange abandoned castle in the middle of a haunted forest.
A woman fixated on the crashing waves of a roaring ocean and the secrets of mystery and misery they hold.
The world of Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence is one of Gothic fairy tale, forbidden romance and star crossed lovers. It collects the 3 stories; Wolves, the ire and Demeter, which were originally self published back in 2013.
After years of only being available in a very rare limited edition hardcover folio edition Image Comics and Cloonan have reprinted the stories in this latest, newly colourised, trade paperback edition.
Although each story stands alone they’re unified by a sense of magic and mystery, a reflection on the nature of desire and the tragic end that often comes from the heart getting exactly what it wants.
Cloonan has gained notoriety for her work as a writer over the last few years with her work on Gotham Academy for DC, the Punisher at Marvel and her own Sci Fi Horror Southern Cross from Image.
These three stories, which predate those series by several years showcase Cloonan’s ability to tell compelling, concise and emotional stories constructed of sparsely worded panels, deep mysterious shadows and longing sideways glances.
A sense of sadness and loneliness permeates the world of each of the solitary protagonists of the three stories. Cloonan’s expressive inks over pencils evoke magic, mystery and mournful melancholy. The soft and sensual blend effortlessly with the supernatural and spooky before giving way to the futility and finality of each story.
The worlds, rendered as they are in gorgeous detail, are dark and mysterious places where ghoulish and ghastly denizens lurk in the lairs, be it a ruined castle, haunted woods of the oceans icy depths.
Colourist Lee Loughride compliments the line art with a delicate approach to colour and texture adding mood, magic and menace to the story. Each story has its own distinct colour pallet from the eerie greens and greys of the Mire to the near endless inky blacks and deep greens of the Ocean in Demeter.
This is an amazingly well made book with Cloonan clearly demonstrating her affection for these stories. The addition of 30 plus pages of back matter ranging from sketches and thumbnails to fully formed images clearly show Cloonan’s love of the genre and the world(s) in which these stories take place.
If you’re a long term Cloonan fan you’ve probably been eagerly waiting for this new edition of these stories. If you’re new to Becky’s work or only know her from her Big 2 books be prepared for a treat. By Chance or Providence is the work of an artist exploring a beloved genre and manipulating its tropes and trapping masterfully.