Sunday, 19 April 2015

Neonomicon Review (Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows)

Neonomicon is the sequel to Antony Johnston and Jacen Burrows’ graphic adaptation of Alan Moore’s The Courtyard, a short story by Moore from the ‘90s. If you missed it, don’t worry because The Courtyard is included in this book. This time around Burrows returns with Moore scripting the comic. 

Aldo Sax, the main character of The Courtyard, is in an insane asylum speaking Lovecraftian gibberish after he was arrested for murdering his neighbour. Two FBI agents, Gordon Lamper and Merril Brears, are assigned to a case of copycat killings in the style Sax committed who, in turn, was mimicking someone else. Everything goes back to the creepy nightclub and Johnny Carcosa - but what does it all mean? 

I first read this when it came out in 2011 but, re-reading it this weekend, I’m not sure why I liked it so much back then - it’s pretty terrible! Like most of Moore’s recent comics, Neonomicon is him cramming in as many literary references as he can around a weak plot. He does this a lot in his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics but in Neonomicon the references are exclusively horror-based, most of them on HP Lovecraft’s work. 

Sax looks like Lovecraft, Carcosa, Aklo, the weird tree in the courtyard, the language, right down to the horror at the end of the tunnel and the chapter subtitles riffing on Lovecraft’s stories - everything is Lovecraft-centric. It’s also mentioned how little dialogue there was in his stories because he was so bad at writing it (Lovecraft was basically bad at writing full stop!), which makes me wonder if Moore aped his style here.

Because the dialogue in this book is horrendous - far too many “yeah”s punctuate the conversations as well as info dumps on Lovecraft and other pieces of horror esoterica make for very unrealistic-sounding speech. Moore’s characters’ dialogue in other comics never stood out as particularly amateurish so I’m going to assume he went especially bad in homage to old HP. 

The non-stop references are either something you’ll like in a sort of Where’s Wally? sense (in America it’s Where’s Waldo? - not sure why the name was changed) or it’s just going to bore you like it did me. 

Speaking of amateurish, the FBI in this book are the most incompetent I’ve ever seen depicted in pop culture. They cover all the exits of the creepy nightclub but when they hear banging underneath them in a secret passage, they assume it’s “just maintenance” rather than follow it up! Then later while Lamper and Brears go undercover, they decide it’s best if they sit in a basement miles away rather than provide any amount of proactive backup. I don’t know why Moore wrote them this brain-dead but they were thoroughly unconvincing “professionals”. 

If the tedious investigation that takes up most of the book, along with the dreadful dialogue and idiotic characters didn’t make me dislike the comic, the repeated rape of one of the characters and the excessive full frontal nudity did it. It is extremely graphic and the naked cultists are not hot either so gear up if you’re going to read this! And all that monster sex/rape… ugh. If I wanted to see Japanese porn, I’d go watch it online rather than go looking for it in an Alan Moore comic! 

Moore does manage to score a few points in the end with his own interpretation on Lovecraft’s stories but they don’t make reading the preceding comic feel worth it. Jacen Burrows’ art is as fantastic as always, it’s just… all that gross nudity and rape. Dude. It’s rough. You can tell it’s an Avatar comic though, those guys are always publishing messed up shit! 

The Courtyard was presented in vertical panels, mostly two to a page, while Neonomicon is almost entirely presented in horizontal panels, mostly four to a page. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean - if it’s a Lovecraft reference, it went over my head - though maybe the wider panels reflect the wider story begun in the first book and expanded in the second? The Courtyard was one character - Aldo Sax - while Neonomicon is two characters - Brears and Lamper - so we get double the panels, two in the first, four in the second? Who knows - maybe it’s purely an aesthetic choice? 

If you want to read LXG: The Horror Edition, give Neonomicon a whirl - I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of ticking off which references you got. I wouldn’t recommend the book though; besides being ploddingly paced, overly long and dull to read, it leaves an unpleasant taste behind once you’ve read it, akin to walking into a bathroom after someone’s taken an epic shit and getting the smell full on.


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