Nemo: The Roses Of Berlin – “This Will All Have To Come Off…”

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“It’s Berlin, Jack, just as we’ve heard. It’s like being inside the mind of Carl Rotwang. We’re in trouble.”

It’s the latest instalment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen saga and oh, you get the impression that this one was a long time coming…

When Moore and O’Neill introduced Captain Nemo’s teenaged daughter Janni five years ago in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910 (succinct titles are for the weak) you knew that they were pleased with themselves. One of the brightest stars in the League’s constellation has always been its terrific roster of female characters, and by modernising Captain Nemo as a terrifying, ferocious and absolutely self-orientated young woman they created a wonderful bridge between the gaudy, crazy, gothic Victoriana of the League’s early arabesques and the more uncanny and unnerving modernistic adventures of the twentieth century.

After Conan Doyle, Stoker and Wells, the League spilled into the twentieth century withThe Black Dossier: creepy like Lovecraft, hinting at the aura spilling behind an awful and incomprehensible reality, and then followed that up with Century, which was as epic and honest a depiction of a culture on the spoil as you are ever likely to read, that also features Nigel Molesworth’s school chum as a member of the Rolling Stones and a cadre of Bond girls as the true power behind the British throne. Those two volumes opened up the scope of Moore and O’Neill’s wonderful series beyond the Victorian to the modern, and the moral seemed to be that there was more at stake and further to fall the closer you crept to today…

So the relative calm and beautiful breezy sleaziness of this, the second of two standalone Captain Nemo adventures (after 2013’s Nemo: Heart Of Ice), reads like crazy sorbet by comparison, a palette cleanser, with gore and robots…

Heart Of Ice was set in 1925, and told the story of a race across the Antarctic between the new Captain Nemo and a pack of Thunderbird-piloting mercenary scientists in the employ of Citizen Kane, only for them to encounter something eldritch in the mountains they find there.

The Roses Of Berlin takes place sixteen years later, and tells of Nemo’s attempt to rescue her daughter and son-in-law from not so much war-torn as war-thriving Berlin, as designed by Dr Caligari, Dr Mabuse and Metropolis‘s Rotwang. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the intricate terror of the expressionist industrialised landscape (as opposed to the gory, squirming Lovecraftian nightmares of Antarctica), with sleep-walking stormtroopers, throbbing metal bumblebee airships and mechanised man factories, but forget at your peril that this is Captain Janni Nemo’s story…

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It’s totally irrelevant how many Nazi analogues Nemo harpoon-guns into extinction (once you conclude that it’s lots); what rings truer through the story is that with Rotwang gone, it’s his robot Maria running the cityscape now, under the ultimate orders of She Who Must Be Obeyed… The three women – one human, one immortal and one mechanical – are running the game, and the men are just cannon fodder. When Little Miss Nemo shows up (with her own punchline) it’s almost gilding the lily: the boy’s own adventures of the nineteenth century are so passé by comparison. Family trumps Empire, it’s the personal that you remember deepest.

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Moore even gives one of the Joker’s most problematic lines from his eighties Batman book, The Killing Joke to Nemo herself. Girlfriends aren’t in refrigerators in these stories, unless the refrigerators are submersible, armed to the teeth and looking for you…

Yes, it’s a gaudy, gory, blade running sorbet, all right (not Wall’s Viennetta but Well’s Vendetta?) but if it’s a palette cleanser, what are they cleansing our palette ready for?

Brilliant fun…

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One response to “Nemo: The Roses Of Berlin – “This Will All Have To Come Off…”

  1. Pingback: Four Colour Fool | mr carapace·

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