Love him or hate him, Alan Moore is one of the most influential comic book writers of the modern era, and in 2010 it came time for him to tackle (by which I mean explore and reinterpret the themes of) one of his favorite American authors, H.P. Lovecraft, who, love him or hate him, is one of the most influential Horror story authors of the twentieth century. The result is a terrifying murder mystery culminating in a survival horror story that is NOT for the faint of heart.
STORY: FBI Agents Sax, Lamper, and Brears are enveloped by a mystery connected to a serial killer who turns his victims into grotesque flowers sculptures. The narrative is actually broken into two cases “The Courtyard” relating Aldo Sax’s initial encounter with the bizarre case, and then years later “Neonomicon” picks up with agents Lamper and Brears trying to bring the case to a close.
All the agents are outclassed naturally, as it is no ordinary murderer they seek, the case twisting and spreading to involve a punk rock band styled in Lovecraftian and occult references, a drug runner whose product drives people insane, and late in the tale a group of hedonists with very dark goals in mind.
ART: It is doubtful the horror would be as heartfelt, the terror as palpable, or the intensity of the latter panels half as scarring if not for the excellent work of Artist Jacen Burrows. I’d go out on a limb and say no other artist could have made the tale as uncanny and effecting as he has here. Anatomically believable characters inhabit lushly detailed cities,alleys, sewers, and the brief otherworldly vistas we are treated are wonderfully understated, and all the more engaging because of it.
A almost washed out but never drab color pallet combined with hypnotically detailed everyday illustrations sell each environment, and as a bonus, Jacen compliments some of Moore’s tell-tale sequential art experimentation with a flourish. A beautiful collection of grotesque artwork.
DIALOGUE: This could be the one place the volume felt lackluster when compared to the masterful writing of Watchmen and excellent dialogue in Swamp Thing, but it is my belief, that Moore’s writing and thus, his more restrained character dialogue is intentionally understated here. These aren’t Moore’s usual cast of rejects, emotional and poetic, these are verbose Law and Order caricatures whose dead pan exposition and jokes make more sense the more we learn about them, and accomplish the important goal of us buying into them as “everyday every-men” so we are more horrified by the things that happen to them. In other words, they are well rounded horror story characters, just not the sweeping fully realized characterizations we are used to seeing in Moore’s writing.
CONTINUES IN: Limited series
CONCLUSION: With a tone more akin to the films Seven or Silence of the Lambs than the more flamboyant works in Moore’s repertoire, the tension ratchets high, and while Lovecraft was content to leave the worst of his horror off the page, things become grotesque and gory early, and only intensifies into what I would refer to as a uncomfortable experience by the end. The folly of man and his idiosyncrasies are explored in part, but the intellectual commentary of the opening acts gives way to skin crawling horror and survival by the volumes end.
Neonomicon is far more important work than most readers seem to realize, Moore deftly illustrates to the quality and horror described by Lovecraft in the 30s, but brings it masterfully into the modern era, reminding us just how terrifying a uncaring universe populated by inhuman horrors can be, and effectively transforms HPL’s overwrought tales into something spine tingling and effecting.
It is dark gem, worth a read for the art and ideas expressed within, but it IS a unpleasant, torrid tale, that makes one feel unclean and uncomfortable afterward.In our modern culture, few taboos remain, and horror stories have for the most part become tame or safe. There is nothing “safe” about Neonomicon, and for that reason alone, I praise it.Moore elevates a genre many today don’t even recognize.