Friday, 6 December 2013

Nemo: Heart of Ice Review (Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill)

It’s 1925 and Janni, the daughter of Captain Nemo, is now captain of the Nautilus and continuing her father’s pirating ways. She and her crew rob an African Queen of her treasures while visiting New York and, in retaliation, a newspaper magnate called Kane sends some goons after her to reclaim it. Then Janni decides to take a trip to the Antarctic, emulating her father’s journey years earlier and the goons follow. And in the Antarctic, they will see the Mountains of Madness. Gibberish ensues.

Yup, this is Alan Moore regurgitating more HP Lovecraft after his Neonomicon book a few years ago. This time he’s doing the Mountains of Madness (MoM) story, incorporating it into his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (LXG) series, though if you’ve never read any of the other books, Heart of Ice can be read as a standalone book – that’s also why it feels so pointless as it adds nothing to the overall LXG series. 

Readers of LXG will remember Janni from Century: 1910 when she ran away from Nemo for a life on land and wound up in a brothel - it was a pretty terrible book, so a follow-up wasn’t really necessary but here we go anyway. In Heart of Ice, Moore wants to show us how Janni became the cold-hearted person she was in later life though really a woman could become quite bitter being used as sex slave for years, so I’m not sure what the point of this book was. 

The best parts of Moore’s LXG series is the way he plays with famous characters and stories from culture, reimagining and twisting them in new and exciting ways. In Heart of Ice, he doesn’t do anything new with Lovecraft’s MoM story, he just retells it (how imaginative!), and badly at that too. Besides Janni, all of the characters look exactly the same, partly due to wearing heavy clothing due to the icy weather, and don’t have distinct personalities. In LXG stories, the characters are based on a mix of famous and obscure fictional characters though, while I could recognise a few (Charles Foster Kane, Ishmael, Tom Swift), I didn’t care about finding out more about the others, in contrast to previous LXG books. 

MoM isn’t Lovecraft’s best story and in Moore’s hands it manages to become even more tedious – Janni and co. wander about the ice, a big dark hole appears, a bizarre Lovecraftian monster show up, the end. It’s too short and too lacking in any strong narrative to be a decent book. I get that the jumbled up sequence was supposed to illustrate why it’s called the Mountains of Madness but it only further underlined how incoherent the story was up until that point and how little I cared about it or any of the characters. 

If you pay attention to any interviews Moore gives nowadays, you’ll know his opinions on modern comics are highly critical across the board, despite not having read any for (allegedly) 25 years! Well, his latest is an absolute bore and totally lacking in any ideas. Maybe he should read some recent comics to see how much better they are compared to the drek he’s churning out these days, and up his game accordingly? 

I think he’s trying to write an interesting classic adventure yarn but he’s barely making any sense here, much like his later LXG books. Kevin O’Neill’s artwork is just ok but he’s done much better elsewhere and I found his work here to be particularly uninspired, especially when drawing Lovecraft’s horrors. 

Nemo: Heart of Ice is a waste of time on all levels with Moore revealing how tapped out he is at this point in his career. He may have written some classics 30 years ago but his latest stuff is forgettable and trite at best. If you want to read a great comic book adaptation of Lovecraft’s story, check out INJ Culbard’s At the Mountains of Madness.

Nemo: Heart of Ice

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