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Moore seems to be running without gas...
on 12 March 2014
To my amazement, this was an Alan Moore book that I difficulty summoning enough interest to finish. That's never happened before, even with such largely pointless works as 'Fashion Beast' Moore normally makes compulsive reading. But this time, no. In fact I couldn't bring myself to actually finish it: the last three pages were too much for me, and a quick scan indicated that they were just too, too flat, stale and unprofitable.
So, what has happened?
First, the obsessive magpie-like reference making that started with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has now become so dominant that it has completely taken over from plot or character. Far too many pages are spent introducing reference after reference to the films of Fritz Lang and others that then bear no fruit. They exist only in order to exist, and to give the comics equivalent of train-spotters something to tick in their little books of 'things Alan Moore has referenced.'
Second, the plot (such as it is) is almost entirely pointless, and simply seems to be an excuse to manoeuvre Nemo into Berlin in the '40s so as to give Moore and O'Neill a chance to produce lots of pseudo-Art-Deco pastiche, introduce the obligatory brothel scene, roll out once again the tired old anti-German paranoia, and finally kill lots and lots and lots of bad people. Yup, that's it. In as far as it has any point, it simply ties up the loose end from Heart Of Ice, which was in itself not an especially necessary piece of writing.
Third, O'Neill's art work here is looking distinctly tired. In particular, for those familiar with the style of Metropolis, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, etc, his re-imagining of it is sadly disappointing, with a certain crudeness and even uncertainty of line that is usually not characteristic of his work. Similarly, the character composition, particularly in two-shots in the first few pages, is often extremely ungainly, and often verges on self-caricature. Perhaps he, if not Moore, is aware that this franchise has gone about as far as it can.
Fourth, why does Moore find it appropriate to put pages and pages of text in German? I speak German reasonably well, but without a dictionary this was hard work. What's wrong with the old convention of putting translated text in brackets? Does Moore think it makes him look clever, or more literary somehow?
Fifth, though I know this is extraneous to the piece itself, after reading Moore's recent rants about how every comics in the world is absolutely terrible except for him (and possible Neil Gaiman), it was more than a little odd to find him doing everything he decried as an abomination: stories existing solely for the purpose of the fight scenes; stealing other people's ideas; superheroes; Nazis. Moore may not see the irony, but it's very hard for the reader not to.
So, basically, I think it's time for Moore to wind up this series. It's a shame, because the first three League books were excellent, but from Century onward, there has been a general downhill path into cultural references becoming the entire purpose of the book. What Moore needs, of course, is a good editor. Rather like Karen Berger was to him before he decided she was a Bad Person. But at the moment he seems in a position to publish anything he pleases, which is no doubt good for his pocket, even if it won't be for his reputation.