A new Alan Moore comic is always something to look forward to. The man’s back catalogue is without equal, and his dedication to the comic book medium is legendary. So when a new Moore arrives, it is always, at the very least, intriguing.
Neonomicon is the latest of Moore’s takes on the world of HP Lovecraft and follows on from his prose story, The Courtyard (later adapted by Antony Johnson and Neonomicon artist Jacen Burrows into comic book form). Both works take part in the Lovecraftian universe of the Cthulhu Mythos; a shared fictional world where Lovecraft and many other writers set their works.
Part One of Four follows two FBI agents as they investigate a string of murders. It opens with the two mismatched agents bickering as they go to interview a convicted felon. He only talks in a strange language, but they manage to squeeze a lead out of his reaction when they mention a nightclub.
The lead takes them to a seedy club, where they meet an informer who gives them the address of the suspect. While competently done, it’s hardly the stuff you would expect from Alan Moore. The plot could have been lifted straight from the script of an average CSI episode.
Underneath all of this though is a sense of something out of place, a hint of another place, where things are not quite what they seem. The last few pages of Part One give us the first real glimpse of this other world with a twist that, while not the most original you’ll read this year, does whet the appetite for Part Two nicely.
There are other hints too, a giant dome covers Brooklyn and one of the agents mentions that there is ‘something weird about all of this. Like some big literary in joke.’ There are mysteries here waiting to be revealed.
Jacen Burrows artwork too suggests there is more to come. While the artwork is good and effective, it is the layout of the pages that is noteworthy. Each page follows a set up of four horizontal panels. Some pages have bigger panels, but when they do, they take the space of two, three or in the case of full pages, four, of the smaller panels.
This rhythm to the art means that you can immerse yourself more into the story; there are no splash panels and no inserts to drag your eyes away from the progression from panel to panel. With the repeated rectangular viewpoint it is almost as if we are watching TV. Once again, you feel that this could be an episode of some hard bitten TV detective show.
It is not until the final few pages and that mysterious sting in the tail that you are reminded that this is not our world.
A mixed bag, then, for the opening issue of Neonomicon.
Part One is hardly vintage Moore and many will point out that the two detectives’ characters and relationship is the stuff of cliché. Add in a routine visit to a prison, a seedy nightclub and then a slummy block of flats – the checklist for any mainstream murder hunt – and you can understand why Neonomicon might disappoint many.
It all hinges on those last few pages, and Moore just pulls it off. It maybe that he does this because we know he can deliver more, or maybe we’re just hoping he can, for old times sake.