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Nemo: The Roses of Berlin Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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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.
This time Moore goes to 1941 Germany though rather than Hitler being in power we have Chaplin's great dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. Moore has also brought on board the great wealth of expressionist German cinema with characters like Dr. Caligari, Dr. Mabuse and the robot Maria from Metropolis.
The story revolves around Janni Dakkar, (Nemo's daughter and the subject of Heart of Ice) and Broad Arrow Jack having to go into Hynker's Tomania (from Charley Chaplin’s the Great Dictator) in order to save their daughter. The story is full of twists and turns but the real fun is beholding O'Neill's spectacular views of Hynker's Tomania by way of Rotwang's Metropolis. O'Neill gives us one spectacular shot of the city after another while Janni and Jack run from the terrifying Maria and search for their daughter.
The real joy of this book is to see Moore's years of experience subtly weave this tale full of clever references. It's fun to read a sentence that contains a strange reference you just know is full of meaning and potential. Great writers are lucky to get 10 years of producing great works but as Moore has always done, he has surprised me once again by staying relevant and producing another great work. I wouldn't say that this is one of Moore's best, but I would say that it is a highly entertaining work and one worth buying and enjoying. And what more can you ask for?
This is largely a simple adventure tale, with not much in the way of hidden meaning or commentary, but in this way it reminds me of the early League volumes.
Fun, entertaining, recommended.
Janni, the daughter of the notorious science pirate Captain Nemo, has carried the legacy of terror and ruthlessness into the 20th century. This, her second adventure after Nemo: Heart of Ice, plunges her into the center of fascist Berlin re-imagined as only the mad wizard Alan Moore can do.
I would love to reveal the references and literary surprises in store for the reader but I won't because half the fun of reading the LOEG series is figuring them out for yourself. I felt many of them in this story were less obscure than some of the other stories which made it that much more enjoyable to me. This particular volume was full of some of the best literary references yet, so I encourage you to avoid spoilers as much as possible before you get a chance to read it.
Of course Kevin O'Neill's art is spectacular (duh) and, as always, crammed full of wonderful detail and diversions. Although usually amazing anyway, O'Neill's full page landscapes are something to behold in this outing. The coloring by Ben Dimagmaliw is superb and works in remarkable synchronicity with O'Neill's line work. The hardcover binding is sharp and the production quality of the book is amazing. At a retail price of $14.95 the sixty page graphic novel is a fantastic bargain.
Highly recommended and my favorite LOEG installation since the original story.