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Nemo: The Roses of Berlin Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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About the Author
Alan Moore is widely regarded as the best and most influential writer in the history of comics. His seminal works include Miracleman and Watchmen, for which he won the coveted Hugo Award. Never one to limit himself in form or content, Moore has also published novels, Voice of the Fire and Jerusalem, and an epic poem, The Mirror of Love. Four of his ground-breaking graphic novels—From Hell, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—have been adapted to the silver screen. Moore currently resides in Northampton, England.
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At the risk of spoiling the story, I will write in broad strokes: the plot had some gaping holes (how it was leaned that Nemo would show when and where she did was never fully or clearly explained). Unlike the previous Nemo graphic novel, I enjoyed the allusions to Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin Blu-ray and Friz Lang's The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]. Allusions to other 1930s pop culture was also a treat (Orson Welle's "War of the Worlds" and the Hindenburg explosion) - it was nice to see Moore include these references given the relative lack of them in the previous Nemo book.
At the risk of spoiling the story, I will write in broad strokes: the plot had some gaping holes (how it was leaned that Nemo would show when and where she did was never fully or clearly explained). How Nemo's daughter and husband were caught up with Hyster and the Nazis was also never clearly explained. I had a difficult time with this: the plot seemed hastily put together and was therefore half-formed. As usual, O/Neill's artwork was tremendous, but it didn't make up for an otherwise lackluster story.
After so many brilliant and well-thought out graphic novels, it is a disappointment to see a story that feels as if it has been "phoned in". I honestly had hoped for much better than this from a demonstrably brilliant and talented duo.
I have complained in the past that Moore demands a TON from the reader. The original two volumes were awesome but they included well known characters and even in those cases Moore took the time to establish who they were. The problem is that in later books Moore uses increasingly obscure characters with little to no background. If a reader read "Nemo: Heart of Ice" and had never heard of Tom Swift Jr. they would just assume he was a villain in literature. Except he isn't. He is a classic unimpeachable good guy. I understand that Moore needs to make adjustment to weave all these disparate characters together but Janni Nemo should never exist. If you read Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island" it is established that the death of his family is the motivating factor in Captain Nemo's life. Everything he did including building the Nautilus was a result of his familial loss. The existence of Janni destroys Nemo's raison d'etre. I've done my homework on trying to understand better the characters Moore has used but now it leads me to question how much Alan Moore himself knows about these characters.
So if I put aside all my issues with the usage of characters is this a well written book? Alan Moore remains the greatest comic writer ever and the scripting is excellent it's in the plot where these books have been underwhelming. Janni and Broad Arrow Jack raid a MASSIVE futuristic underwater Nazi base filled with Nazi sleep commandos (ok, that's officially cool). The base is being run by the female robot from Metropolis and Princess Ayesha from the previous book, `Heart of Ice'. There are a whole new group of characters for me to look up including Dr. Mabuse, Robur the Conqueror, Dr. Caligari, Dr. Rotwang and Adenoid Hynkel. Besides Robur these are all characters from cinema rather than literature with Hynkel being a humorous tweak from Moore (look the name up on Wikipedia). I probably enjoyed this book more than the previous four books (and way more than Black Dossier) but this might be due to lowered expectations. Heart of Ice was mostly one long chase and this book is pretty much just a 56 page cat and mouse game between Janni Nemo and the team of Ayesha and the Metropolis Robot.
This book is not going to break its way into my top 20 favorite Alan Moore books but it was an enjoyable read. What I enjoy most about this series is finding characters and then looking them up on Wikipedia to find out more. As I said I've read a ton of books including `The Steam Man of the Prairies', Tom Swift, Jules Verne and tons of others so in that respect this series has inspired me to become more literate. I just hope that this series is not Moore's Swan Song because he certainly has demonstrated far more writing prowess in the past than what is displayed here. Let me add that love it or hate it this is a lovingly crafted book that even includes threaded binding which is a very nice touch.
Addendum: Inspired by this book I went and watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which is considered one of the great films of the silent era. It did add somewhat to my enjoyment of the book. The one page splash that introduces Caligari and the "Sleep Soldiers" uses the same odd angles as the film which was considered a very influential film of German Expressionism. That was a great artistic nod that few people would notice. The Sleep Soldiers are a reference to Cesare the Somnambulist that Caligari used as a killer. On the other hand Caligari only acquired Cesare by chance and showed no ability to actually CREATE a sleeping killer. The look of Caligari differs from the film quite a bit which is weird because that would seem like a slam dunk. Also, the twist ending of `The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' pretty much makes his appearance here quite impossible. Still, it was fun researching the character.
Addendum 2: I watched Metropolis, The Great Dictator and Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. The biggest surprise was how much I loved the Dr. Mabuse film. As someone with a very short attention span I cannot believe how much I enjoyed a four and a half hour silent film from 1922 Germany but it really was amazing. Metropolis and Dr. Mabuse were both directed by Fritz Lang but I was far more impressed by Mabuse. It's clear that Moore is not sticking to the source material. For instance in this book Dr. Rotwang designed Metropolis but there is no indication in the movie that this is so. Also, the Moloch Machine didn't actually exist and was a hallucination of the main character in the film. Moore also creates a problem by having Adenoid Hynkel's Tomainia in the same universe as Adolph Hitler and Germany since Hynkel and Tomainia were clearly intended to BE Hitler and Germany.
Addendum 3: I read Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror and The Master of the World. Moore seems to have gotten Robur's smallish `Terror' mixed up with the much larger `Albatross'. The `Terror' was only about 30 feet long. One could claim that this was a new LARGER `Terror' except that Robur in this book is described as young and the `Terror' wasn't created until he was older. This `Terror' is significantly larger than even the 100 foot `Albatross' which itself had no weapons of defense. Technologically wise Moore's `Terror' is far beyond anything Verne wrote about while Robur himself comes off as much weaker than the literary character.