Wednesday, March 13, 2013

REVIEW: Nemo: Heart of Ice

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neil
Review: Will Dubbeld

I was an ardent fan of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, at least for the first two volumes. It was essentially a Justice League or Avengers composed of mid- to late-19th century literary characters, so what wasn't to like? The third release, Black Dossier, meandered into the realm of the bizarre and by the time League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century was released I was a bit apprehensive. Deservedly so, as it was rife, lousy almost, with oblique references and re-imaginings of characters from film and literature.

While League has had it's share of misfires I was intrigued by the prospect of the newest installment, a spin-off concerning Captain Nemo's daughter Janni.

I also am guilty of greedily gobbling up nearly everything Alan Moore puts to paper.

Heart of Ice opens on the docks of New York City in 1925 with Janni Dakkar and her pirate retinue robbing a visiting African queen (as in a foreign sovereign, not a Humphrey Bogart movie) and escaping in the Nautilus. Taking exception to this, the queen and her industrialist companion send a team of adventurer-scientists after Janni with the intent of retrieving the booty.

Setting the backbone of the story is a scene with Janni recalling her fathers displeasure at having sired a daughter over a son, and her desire to follow the path of an ill-fated Antarctic expedition Nemo took in order to gain a sense of self and familial closure.

Then it hit me, my nerdy eyes narrowing with scrutiny.



There was something decidedly non-Euclidean about where this story was going, and my Lovecraft senses were tingling.
For those of you unfamiliar, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft penned an Interbellum story about an ill-fated Antarctic expedition and the nameless horrors encountered At the Mountains of Madness.

The remainder of Heart of Ice was a high speed chase through Antarctica, complete with time-dilation, superscience, Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, and giant penguins. The last act was superb.

Nemo: Heart of Ice was a step in the right direction for Moore, whom I've found a bit lackluster of late with the exception of Fashion Beast. Lost Girls was fairly odious at points, and I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading Neonomicon. Even the last installment of League had an overbearing psychosexual tone to it, a theme that's become omnipresent in the last few Alan Moore pieces I'd read.

More so than his usual fare, at any rate.
Heart of Ice, however, avoided any instances of rape, sexual congress with Mythos creatures, or incest.
Good job, Al!

While sex was always represented in Moore's work, the theme had taken an unnecessary forefront recently. As per the Leagues previous installments, Nemo was full of references and thinly veiled pastiches of archaic literary figures. This is a mixed blessing.I see it as a sort of "Where's Waldo?" game of wits to identify these and from whence they came, but I am admittedly not very good at it. Alan Moore's familiarity with 19th-early 20th century literature far surpasses mine, and you can all too often expect every character to have his or her origin in some other authors work. Sometimes this is clever, but it more often detracts from the story by bloating it with references. I mentally high five myself for catching backhanded allusions to Fritz Lang's Metropolis or H. Rider Haggard's She, but a thinly veiled Mary Poppins or a Harry Potter Antichrist that shoots lightning from his dick does nothing but conjure groans and eye-rolls.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century featured both Mary Poppins and the aforementioned lightning-phallused Harry Potter. Kevin O'Neil's art was top notch, as usual, blending retro-futurist designs and Victorian sensibilities featured in earlier volumes, melding Art Deco and science fiction. Like many of Moore's collaborators (namely Eddie Campbell) O'Neil's seemingly simplistic line art is deceptively detailed on closer scrutiny and accentuates the subtler nuances of the book. This latest installment in the League's history was excellent, and I'd gladly read further spin off tales as long as Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neil are at the helm.

Nemo: Heart of Glass is a hardcover available from Top Shelf Productions and retails for $14.95, USD.

No comments:

Post a Comment