Monday, 5 February 2018

Nemo: River of Ghosts

Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill Nemo: River of Ghosts (2015)
This isn't quite Alan Moore's absolute final work in the comic book medium, but it's probably close enough as to make little difference now that he's retiring in hope of dedicating more time to anything which isn't Batman; and like The Roses of Berlin, it seems to constitute a farewell of sorts, or at least is about its own status as the end of a road. As for Moore moving on...

I am sure there is probably a very good reason for the hundreds of thousands of adults who are flocking to see the latest adventures of Batman, but I for one am a little in the dark for what that reason is. The superhero movies - characters that were invented by Jack Kirby in the 1960s or earlier - I have great love for those characters as they were to me when I was a thirteen-year-old boy. They were brilliantly designed and created characters, but they were for fifty years ago. I think this century needs, deserves, its own culture. It deserves artists that are actually going to attempt to say things that are relevant to the times we are actually living in. That's a long-winded way of me saying I am really, really sick of Batman.

Here we have an aging Nemo facing death, a woman whose past constitutes a river of ghosts, so to speak; and she's still fighting the immortal Ayesha from H. Rider Haggard's She, whose immortality prevails thanks to Nazis, Rotwang, and various nasties borrowed from elsewhere, fictional and otherwise.

Let us continue with our tour. Doctor Mengele will next present his biological facility… where we create all you younger versions of previous legends.

See, that's probably a metaphor for the fact that even in 2018, we still haven't tired of reinventing Spiderman. There's a bit of a contradiction here in that this refutation of the endless recycling of culture is itself formed of recycled culture, albeit from discontinued lines; and if the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was ever a genuine reinvestment in storytelling as art rather than commodity, then it might be argued that it's all relative and Nemo is only a more artisanal* Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice served on square plates and washed down with real ale decanted into one of those Mason jars with a handle stuck to it. Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this one. Maybe that's why Moore is moving on.

Anyway, River of Ghosts is fun, as you would probably expect, not least for the inclusion of Hugo Hercules - the first cartoon superhero, it has been suggested, therefore folding the history of this particular genre into a neat ouroboros but for the fact of it being hard to avoid reading him as Desperate Dan. References to obscured or partially lost realms of fiction are as thorough as ever, or exhausting as ever depending upon how you look at it. As Nemo reports, I'm told that this is their last breeding colony, I turned the page, and there they all were - the Creatures from the Black Lagoon from the 1954 Universal movie with curious predictability, which suggests we may have run this idea into the ground by this point. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

*: I apologise to each and every reader for my use of this word.

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