‘Chockablock with scantily clad robots and Nazi war criminals fashioning robot armies’ – Nemo: River of Ghosts by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
And so we arrive at the third and possibly final Nemo outing (you can read what we had to say about Nemo: Heart of Ice and Nemo: Roses of Berlin elsewhere on Bookmunch) and we’ve learned to cope with the brevity of the narrative, and we’ve learned to cope with the fact that the only way we’ll get all the references is to either camp out on Alan Moore’s doorstep or wade through the excellent footnotes that Jess Nevins will I’m sure get around to producing soon. The additional thrill of this third outing is that actually we can now sit and read the trilogy as a single book.
It’s 1975. Nemo (the Nemo familiar to readers of Jules Verne and readers of Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books alike)’s daughter, Janni, is now an old, old lady, whose familiars bemoan the fact that she is quite possibly losing her grip on reality – but this aside, she retains her command and her crew do as they are told, even as they wonder if maybe they’re being taken on a trip that will lead to their doom. She is surrounded by ghosts nobody but her can see, who offer counsel that she responds to, even as her responses spook those flesh and blood people about her, not entirely privy to both sides of the conversation, as it were.
But this isn’t Moore’s Le Temps retrouvé – he has 52 or so pages, and a rattling good yarn to be getting on with. Ayesha (a villainess culled from the pen of Rider Haggard who last showed her face in Roses of Berlin) has been spotted and so Janni and her crew are in hot pursuit, riding this demon down for the hopefully last time, Janni wanting to settle some scores before she shuffles off this mortal coil for good. In addition to her crew, she’s accompanied by a character called Hugo and a brief description of Hugo’s antecedents gives you an idea of what immersing yourself in Alan Moore’s world(s) can be like these days: Hugo is both a figure from Irish mythology (Cú Chulainn, a figure given to ‘war spasms’ in which he recognises neither friend nor foe) and quite possibly Desperate Dan’s dad, a nod to 2000AD’s Slaine and Hugo Hercules, a character created by William Koehner for the Chicago Tribune back in 1909 and credited by some as the first ever superhero. There are also references to him killing the character that inspired Superman, at the behest of Doc Savage. But – importantly, we think – you don’t need to know any of these things to get a massive kick out of his presence in River of Ghosts.
Moore and O’Neill viewed these books as palette-cleaners, and that’s the best way to approach them, even if you are reading the three of them back to back (as you should). It may be that Moore has been putting the majority of his effort into his million word (at least in draft form) novel, Jerusalem (due out in 2016), and his forthcoming sequel to Neonomicon, Providence, a book that is being called ‘the Watchmen of horror’ and set to begin a 12 issue run in May 2015 – and that the Nemo trilogy has allowed him to blow off steam (you only have to check out the climax to River of Ghosts, which is chockablock with scantily clad robots and Nazi war criminals fashioning robot armies in a jungle hideout to verify that), but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment to be had.
Any Cop?: We wouldn’t recommend readers start with River of Ghosts (although you could), but we would recommend readers make their way through all of the LOEG books and then hit the Nemo trilogy hard.
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- April 6, 2015 / 5:00 am