Alan Moore - Nemo: The Rose of Berlin / The Bojeffries Saga
Two new collections of the revered graphic novelist's witty, anarchic and heavily intertextual works
Nemo: The Roses of Berlin (Top Shelf/Knockabout) ●●●● is the second spin-off from the pages of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's highly literary, dazzlingly intertextual comic romp The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, once again featuring steam-punk pirate Janni Nemo, daughter of Jules Verne's original submariner (and star of last year's first instalment, Heart of Ice). It's 1941, and the captain of the Nautilus is lured to Germany following the capture of her own flying buccaneer daughter by Berlin's warmongering dictator.
This being the gloriously ludic LOEG universe, the chief villain is Adenoid Hynkel (Charlie Chaplin's parody of Hitler from The Great Dictator), while the German capital is modelled on the futuristic cityscape from Metropolis. Hynkel's henchmen include two elderly criminal masterminds, Doctors Mabuse and Caligari, and the latter's appearance is complemented by an appropriately expressionistic visual style.
The plotting of this romp is fairly straight-forward, but the real pleasure lies in the bewildering array of intertextual references and smartly satirical use of literary figures, famous and obscure. Where Moore and O'Neill go from here is anybody's guess, but they've got the whole of literary creation, past and present, to plunder. Long may their reign of terror continue.
Just like buses: you wait ages for a new Alan Moore graphic novel and two come along at once. This month also sees the release of a collected edition of a humour strip Moore started writing back in the early 1980s. More (ahem) funny ha-ha than The League stories, The Bojeffries Saga (Knockabout) ●●●● reads like episodes of The Addams Family or The Munsters crossed with an English soap (the setting is drab Wolverhampton) rendered in a visual style that's reminiscent of MAD magazine and British kids comics such as The Dandy and The Beano.
The nine stories included revolve around the titular family of freaks (two kids, one evil, the other more powerful than Superman; a thermonuclear baby; vampire and werewolf uncles; grandpa, who's turning into Lovecraftean primordial ooze; and supremely laid-back dad, Jobremus) who live in an otherwise unremarkable terraced house and try to keep their weird personal business private from various nosey parkers.
It's witty, anarchic stuff with Moore using the inherently ridiculous set-up to poke fun at a British nation and culture he clearly views as fundamentally absurd. The final story, a new one specially written for this collection, underlines that view with an utterly excoriating vision of Britain today. Ouch.