In 1975, Pirate queen, Janni Dakkar, the leader of the legendary Nemo family, is in her eightieth year and is suffering from a health related mental breakdown; but it is in this condition that she hears tell of her late arch enemy, Queen Ayesha, being spotted live and well in South America. And so, as a last hurrah, and with as idiosyncratic a crew as ever, she takes the iconic Nautilus on a voyage up the Amazon to take down her enemy once and for all.
Starting as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series and moving on to its second life as the Century trilogy of graphic novels, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill now bring to a close the third in their series of trilogies that is valiantly attempting to mash-up a huge portion of fiction in to a single continuity, with the newly released instalment of their Nemo hardcover graphic novels, Nemo: River of Ghosts.
We’ve reviewed each one of these graphic novels as they were released, so little more needs to be said about the general writing and art prowess of team Moore/O’Neill, but to briefly recap; any comic reader worth their salt knows that Alan Moore is one of, if not THE most important comic writer of any generation, owing to his incredible sense of intricacy, originality and smarts. His brain is an amazing thing, and unlike such peers as Frank Miller, his work, though slowed down, hasn’t suffered with the inevitable onset of grumpy-old-bastard-ness.
O’Neill, the only artist who’s very style was challenged by the Comics Code Authority, can’t boast to be quite so universally adored as Moore, being that his art is, well, ugly looking; but it’s in a intriguing way that is still skilful, remarkably detailed and very singular. And don’t be fooled, he puts just as much research into this series as Moore does.
This being set in 1975 makes the concept of these books a little trickier to deal with, from a creator point of view, as it’s significantly harder to bring fictional properties into the fold when they’re still under licence and cannot always be referred to by name. This has caused, over the last two trilogies, the team to be even more creative with the introduction and referencing of characters, and as a consequence the reader requiring to be all the more vigilant on consumption.
It is for this reason that I felt that more references than not flew over my head while reading River of Ghosts; but, of course, that’s not the only reason, some of the references are just outright obscure, for instance, one of the leading characters, a superhumanly strong mercenary called Hugo Hercules, who initially seemed to be a well known character that this reviewer was just plain oblivious to, on investigation, turned out to be from a short-lived newspaper strip in the early nineteen hundreds (?!).
There again, another reason this series of books excites and interests is because, if you so wish, there is entirely more fun to be had after the fact, chasing down those references and cluing yourself in.
All this being said, River of Ghosts, as with the whole series and despite that sense your not ‘getting’ it all, still works as a cracking and more than a little twisted adventure in its own right.
This time around original references (insofar as I could actually ascertain on reading) include, The Face in the Abyss, The Lost World, Isla – Shewolf of the SS, The Stepford Wives, (British funny comic stalwart) Desperate Dan and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, all on top of the pre-established mythology/references made in the earlier books.
This time containing no text based back-up story, the featured story going right to the back cover, it is still the fastest read of the League series to date, unusual for anyone accustomed to Moore’s work, meaty as they usually are. It’s a veritable breeze compared to some of his other work.
I love this series to bits, and Nemo: The River of Ghosts hasn’t broken that trend, in fact the continued and considered building of the mythology has caused me to like it all the more; it is unequivocally a masterwork. But the thing about a great many masterworks, they’re just not for everybody. To enjoy this to its fullest you must be patient, inquisitive and enjoy fiction in all its forms and eras, if not you need not apply.
Also, it works best if read after the previous books and in published order, so with that in mind…
In order of release the Leauge books are as follows: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (LOEG) Vol.1, LOEG Vol.2, LOEG: Black Dossier, LOEG – Century: 1910, LOEG – Century: 1969, LOEG – Century: 2009, Nemo: Heart of Ice and Nemo: The Roses of Berlin.