When Johnny Cash said that love was a burning thing, he was probably talking about the self-published works of Becky Cloonan. Before she became the first woman to draw an issue of Batman or the visual sense of Gerard Way’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Becky wrote and illustrated tales of tragedy and morbid undying love. Image Comics is doing everyone not fortunate enough to buy the original self-published comics a solid and collecting the award-winning trilogy in By Chance or Providence.

By Chance or Providence

Story and Art: Becky Cloonan

Colors: Lee Loughridge

(In stores July 26, 2017)

This book collects the short stories “Wolves,” “The Mire,” and “Demeter.” Three individual stories set in a mid evil backdrop which takes readers through curses, mortality, twisted truths, and punch in the gut moments. “Wolves” is a tale about curses being much akin to feelings in how they can linger on long after the monsters are gone. “The Mire” is short story which deals with a young squire tasked to journey through a haunted swamp. Along the way he’ll find the real meaning of hard truths and sacrifice as the swamp won’t be the most frightening thing about this story. “Demeter” is where Cloonan drop kicked me in the balls. What would you do if you knew you were counting down the remaining days you had with the person you love most? Would you fight to hold on? Cherish the time you had left? Or bargain with the sea that gifted you this curse? In a book filled with emotion, Demeter manages to test the reader’s breaking point. I found myself closing the book and just taking a breath, something no comic has ever made me do before.

Lee Loughridge’s colors are some of the most spot on mood creators in any comic ever. When you get a look at Cloonan’s fantastic sequential pencils, it’s obvious what Lee brings to the story. Such as with film, the panels feel complete by the colorwork. Cloonan might be her own director and cinematographer in these stories but Loughridge is the one that colorizes this film to make sure it looks emotionally right on screen. In this case on the page.

Getting back to what makes these tales unique. First, they aren’t for everyone. While they could certainly appeal to the crowd reading Gotham Academy, it’s not likely they’ll land with the audience reading Cloonan’s Punisher run. It speak’s to her ability as a well-rounded storyteller able to branch out and have created Shakespearean tales like these then move on to more traditional comics. The weight these characters carry is conveyed, not only through Cloonan’s sparse and effective use of dialogue but through the raw emotions the eyes everyone in these tales possesses.

By Chance or Providence is your chance to read what goes on in the mind of a true metal loving storyteller like Becky Cloonan. Love stories that combine poignant comic style with rich dark Castlevaniaesque lore in a way that could only happen in these pages. We need more!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written reviews, between the consulting opportunities and five shows in three months; it was impossible for me to get back to comics. Just like when we launched, it takes a special book to get me back in the swing of things so we’re using my self-professed classic get hyped rating scale of “Won or Done” to give the official word on By Chance or Providence.

WON!By Chance or Providence is an emotional goliath of a book for anyone who wants comic book stories that stay with you for life. Available in shops and online July 26, 2017.


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