Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Ben Dimagmaliw, Todd Klein
Knockabout / Top Shelf
Following her wintry adventuring to Lovecraftian Antarctica in Heart Of Ice and the wartorn Germany of The Great Dictator Hynkel in Roses Of Berlin, this third and final Nemo volume finds Janni Nemo heading into old age, into possible obsession and madness and finally, deep into the heart of darkness, a final journey, chasing ghosts of decapitated enemies . The general consensus is that she’s not well…
“..it’s just another pseudo-Ayesha. Don’t you think you’re overdoing this obsessive, mad villainess business just … a touch?”
“Princess, they say you are losing your grip…”
“…Preparing for a war with a dead woman! … Mother, everyone thinks you’re going mad…”
“Captain Grandmother, sir? Is it really true that sometimes you talk to the spirits?”
Sometimes, young Nemo? Most of the time it seems. But such is the fate of us all, the young look forward, the old look back, memories and ghosts all that are left.
By now, I expect most reading this are at least aware of the conceit behind the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that history is fictional in this world, literary characters made real, reshaping things, allowing Moore and O’Neill to play with a sweetie jar full of the familiar and the utterly obscure. Here we’re relocated to the deepest Amazon rainforest, full of ancient temples re-purposed by renegade Nazi scientists using Rotwang’s engineering, an army of Chaplin derived Adenoid Hynkel clones alongside multiple man-machine copies of Haggard’s Queen Ayesha.
But let’s not forget this is set in the middle of the decade that taste forgot, those wonderful 70s, so is it any surprise that, deep in the Amazon jungle, we’re looking at the results of experiments helmed by Bormann and a “Swiss German feller called Heinz Goldfoot” who’s “very partial to ladies’ bosoms” and it’s all gone a bit Woody Allen meets Russ Meyer? Very 70s indeed.
Alongside the adventure, we have the introduction of a very larger than life character, perfect for future iterations of the League if ever I saw one, Janni Nemo’s huge new bodyguard, Hugo Coghlan. Or Hugo Hercules, or Hugo Cúchulainn, no one seems sure. A man with a history, as you’d expect, and a major part of the tale, not just for the comic relief he provides. The moment he takes a deep breath and disappears out the air-lock for three hours to clear the ruins of Merritt‘s Yu-Atlanchi is comedy gold…
“Sure I could have that bit o’mess tidied away in an hour or two.”
“Be serious, Mr. Coghlan. How would we ever fit you into a diving suit?”
“Uhm… And why would I be wantin’ one o’ those now?”
Or even better… he has a very welcoming nature…
As for who he is, well the references are all there of course, you just need to connect the dots, the huge bloke, the Cú Chulainn connection of Irish legend (not to mention 2000AD’s Slaine) and a little digging on Hugo Hercules turns up a US strip, early 20th Century, one of many contenders for the first superhero type. And then there’s this..
No wonder the Hindu and Sikh crew-members have been complaining about his diet. Wonder if Desperate Dan’s ever met his papa? And that all encapsulates how Nemo manages to be such grand fun. Sure, there are no doubt many references I simply haven’t clocked (I’ll check out Jess Nevins’ annotations at some point), but the Desperate Dan connection ran really high in the mix, easy to get, easy to understand, but even if you didn’t, there was no sense that it lessened the tale.
These Nemo volumes are very much companion pieces to the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, lacking some of the more intricate and involved storytelling but also lacking some of the somewhat frustrating at times game of spot the literary references dropped in through story and art. They’ve far more in common in storytelling terms with the very first League volume than the most recent, and most excellent Century. Weirdly, after spending a time criticising the League for over-egging things, making it all too referential and complex, I’ve actually come around to enjoying the inventiveness of Black Dossier and Century more than the simpler, linear storytelling of the earlier volumes.
Which is why, despite Nemo being a really good, really solid piece of story, accompanied all the way through with Kevin O’Neill’s really over-the-top but ever so good imagery, it’s still JUST a damn good romp, genre fiction through a Moore/O’Neill filter, weird fiction done well, but it’s never going to be up there with the best League tales. However, let’s concentrate on what it is, not what it isn’t. As I said, it’s a rather grand romp, a pulpy feeling adventure with a Moore/O’Neill twist. And as such, it’s well worth the time to read and enjoy it, don’t ascribe any great import to it, don’t expect it to be anything more than it is, and you’ll finish the book satisfied at a damn good old-school read.
And then, at the end, after Nemo sees her end atop a pile of her enemy’s corpses, surrounded the ghosts of her life, we jump to ’87, and the next generation prepares to take the helm. A fitting end to a series, all about the eventual futility of looking back, about the inevitability of time moving on, memories all that’s left, the future the important thing. Will there be more Nemo books? I imagine there might, Moore certainly leaves it open, with Janni’s grandson in place, a new Captain Nemo looking the part. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more, it may not be the hugely involving read of the League tales proper, but as a fabulous pulpy romp of an adventure it certainly works its magic well.
Oh, let’s end it all with another fabulous piece of O’Neill’s artwork, the full piece from the art heading this review… let the mayhem begin…