Neonomicon #1

by on Jul.27, 2010, under Comics

The other day in the comic book store I overheard a guy saying how it’s not fair for Alan Moore to complain about other people being unoriginal when he’s spent his entire career making new works with other people’s characters or by reworking other people’s tropes.

I’d never thought of it before, but it’s completely true: Watchmen, Miracleman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Swamp Thing, Supreme, Tom Strong, Lost Girls, Skizz, even to a certain extent From Hell. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t a stunningly original body of work (or that in other books, like V for Vendetta, Promethea, and Top 10 he hasn’t also shown he can invent whole-cloth with the rest of them). But for the most part he’s made his bones showing just how much you can do with recycled material.

In 2004 he applied himself to H.P. Lovecraft with The Courtyard. It was an interesting, slim book in which an unapologetically racist FBI agent tried to crack an impossible set of murder cases and was exposed accidentally to the underlying grammar of the universe, which happened to be written just like Lovecraft’s vowel-less gibberish. This destroyed his mind and he ritually murdered his neighbor in just the manner of the murders he was investigating.

Neonomicon, the new series of some undisclosed number of issues, begins six years later as a new pair of FBI agents undertake to investigate that same set of murders—along with the three committed by the agent from The Courtyard. They start their quest by attempting to interview him in a criminal psych hospital, but he only answers them in Lovecraftian grunts. Then they try to track down the dealer he’d been chasing when he went mad, but the guy slips away from them and escapes into a mural.

One of Moore’s great strengths, as always, is in the way he fleshes out his borrowed elements (and I haven’t read my Lovecraft, so I can’t pinpoint what’s borrowed and what isn’t) with original character details, communicated through dialogue. In this case, for example:

“Get the fuck out of here. You got job-related stress. You didn’t carve people into fucking tulips.”

“Well, it wasn’t all job-related, I had a lot of personal issues to work through…”

“What, you were dating too many guys, you were drinking a little, it’s not the same thing…”

“Listen, I had problems. The sex-addiction thing…”

“Merril, if that was a real illness everybody over thirteen would be in a hospital.”

Later, Merril’s superior asks how her leave went, and then tells her that it’s great she’s sorted things out, and if she ever wants to go back to how things were, she should let him know, huh?

If I was one of those screenwriter bloggers, this is where I would write something like “That, kiddies, is how you lay pipe,” as part of an ongoing pretense that you can reduce creativity to mere craftsmanship. But what’s impressive about Moore isn’t the craftsmanship. It’s the bottomless originality.

Preview here.

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