Princess Janni, daughter of famed pirate, Captain Nemo, and inheritor of his rebel horde as well as his miraculous submersible, The Nautilus, for reasons of pride has endeavoured to accomplish a feat her father was unable to successfully mount, an exploration of Antarctica. Unfortunately her last act of piracy entailed taking possession the belongings of the Queen of Kor, who at the time was the guest of unthinkably rich publisher, Charles Foster Kane. Soon enough Kane hires three American adventurers to reclaim the stolen items by any means necessary, but in the uncharted realms of Antarctica all manner of strangenesses dwell.
Mashing up works of literature is hardly a new idea, Alan Moore wasn’t the first to do it and he certainly won’t be the last, but with his League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen series it’s hard to think of anyone who has done it with such ambition.
With that aforementioned series and its subsequent follow-ups and spin-offs, Moore and his partner in crime, Kevin O’Neill, have made it clear they will settle for nothing less than amalgamating the entirety of fiction into a single working universe.
In the first League adventures, the major players were referenced from well-known and respected works of Victorian literature and so could be enjoyed on numerous levels by many readers, including those who themselves may not be avid followers of literature, but as time has gone on such follow-ups as The Black Dossier, the Century series and this latest graphic novel, Nemo: Heart Of Ice, have made recognising the contained references much more difficult a task, not just because the fictional sources are less iconic but also because, in some cases, the characters aren’t in the public domain, so have to be name-checked in vague ways.
Does this hamper enjoyment of the stories? Well, I guess that depends on what you’re looking to get out of them. Nemo, unlike every spin-off before it, acts as a stand-alone entity; armed with the basic concept of the series, you can read it without having read any LOEG story to date.
Being from the original creative team of Moore and O’Neill, the story is as intriguing, fun and detailed as their track record would require it to be, even coming at it with little to no knowledge of its inspirations, but a heightened awareness of literature and beyond will provide many an extra kick. Most, I assume, will be in the same position as myself, recognising a number of the characters and scenarios but by no means all, in this case more fun can be had beyond the reading of the graphic novel by indulging in a bit of after the fact internet research. On a personal level, through the last decade of reading LOEG stories, I’ve found these researches not only to be fun and informative but also paramount to my discovering directions to follow when getting into classic literature, with the authors of such sometimes becoming amongst my favourites.
It takes a special kind of creator and book to improve you culturally, and Nemo can certainly be described special, it’s a hell of a read.
The bizarre mash-up this time includes characters from Citizen Kane, H. Rider Haggard’s She, and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft, with fun inclusions of as diverse a works as Tom Swift, Moby Dick and, of all things, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds.
Unless you’re put off by the general density of storytelling or O’Neill’s creepy artwork in Nemo: Heart Of Ice, there’s very little not love about it; it’s just the kind of original graphic novel that you should expect out of the very best in the business, and as always there’s a great back-up prose story to ensure that you really get your money’s worth. As mentioned it can be read of its own merits, but I would always recommend that you read the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen back catalogue in published order.
A+ grade – for originality
A grade – for storytelling
B+ grade – for artwork
Overall grade – A
For those interested the published order of LOEG books is as follows: LOEG vol1, LOEG vol2, LOEG: Black Dossier, LOEG: Century 1910, LOEG: Century 1969, LOEG: Century 2009 and Nemo: Heart Of Ice.