Stranger Picks: By Chance or Providence

By Chance or Providence – Becky Cloonan

nerd league stranger picks becky cloonan by chance or providence reading recommendation comic book horror gothic love

© Image Comics


By Chance or Providence
, Becky Cloonan’s newest work, is a triptych exploring the intersection between horror, mystery, and the darkness that lies within the human heart. The three stories had all been published previously and are titled “Wolves,” “The Mire,” and “Demeter.” They all speak of ghosts, the smallest whispers in the nighttime, and the heavy fate that comes with impossible love and impending death. I can guarantee you’ll be thinking about them long after you’ve read them, especially as you try to fall asleep at night.

The Premise

“Wolves” is about a woman, a man, and the impossibility of love between the two. The man, a hunter, fights off a monster stalking the forest outside a kingdom. As he does so, he remembers the woman he left behind, her words, her eyes, her desperate, unending worry for him. In spite of all this, he goes and does the deed anyway. He pulls the sword from the belly of the beast, wraps it, and carries it back. It’s done, but it still haunts him. The eyes still follow him.

“The Mire” is about forests, secrets, and the deceptiveness of time. Aiden is a squire to a knight named Owain. On the eve of a battle, Owain sends Aiden away with a letter to be delivered to a castle in the woods. But as Aiden ventures ever closer to his destination, he recalls memories he didn’t know he ever had. He finds rooms he somehow remembers. And when the skeleton in the bed bids him to read the letter he’s supposed to deliver, he finds that his very past is there before him.

“Demeter” is about the ocean, fears as deep as the seabed, and never letting go. Anna and Colin live on an island, in love, wrapped in each other. But as storms roll in, Anna remembers the past and Colin struggles to remember anything at all from beyond their little life. The sea calls them both. It’s the siren call of the ocean that reminds Colin of what he once was, of the pelt that was his true form, a long time ago. And Anna, desperate to keep him close, hides it away. Is he dead? Is he human? Is he something more? The questions are all there, and only the sea has the answers.

Why You Should Read It

By Chance or Providence is perfect for anyone who loves gothic horror, or even regular horror. It feels like unspoken spells, like untouched snowfall, like fingers through a spider’s web. It’s truly a marvel to read, especially if you’re a romantic, or you like spooking yourself. And it’s perfect for Halloween.

Also, there are even more than the three stories in this standalone. The fourth section of the book is chockfull of concept art and illustrations, and the reader can see the thought process that went into each story and admire all the little details Cloonan thought about. Many of them have roots in medieval stories and imagery. There are lots of coins, tragic deaths, and shadowy giants in the fog. There are royal maidens in flowing dresses, grizzled men with swords, wolves and water, moons and magic. It’s all beautiful, and all deadly. Be careful as you read through the pages: all the swords and dangerous characters might cut your fingers.

Stranger Picks is a series of comic book recommendations led by one of our  Nerds with a taste for weird stories. To keep up with this week’s pick, click here.   

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