Nemo: The Roses Of Berlin graphic novel review

Is The Roses Of Berlin Alan Moore’s weakest League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen book so far?

While the mainline League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen continues to float off into ever more esoteric territory, delighting fans with the wealth of allusions to decode and alarming casual readers with their sheer depth, the Nemo series – following the titular captain’s daughter Janni – takes a sudden swerve into the accessible after the opaque Nemo: Heart Of Ice.

Relieved? Well be careful what you wish for.

As usual for the meticulous magpie that is Alan Moore, his found-object world is richly constructed and O’Neill renders a suitably sinister alternate World War II Berlin of harsh expressionist angles and airships, Metropolis robots and Caligari sleepwalkers, all ruled over by Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator – but far less densely layered and therefore far less rewarding than usual.

In lieu of the coursework and further reading most League books require – all part of the fun, of course – The Roses Of Berlin simply has huge tracts written in German, which isn’t a particularly clever or interesting device, even if it is an authentic one, and the vast majority of the meta-textual references can be instantly picked up by anyone with a passing interest in film history (with few exceptions, like the passing nods to 1918’s Meccania, The Super-State or 1896’s Ubu Roi)

The structure contrasts neatly with the first Janni Dakkar narrative – Century 1910’s disquieting rape-revenge fantasy – in which a similarly plodding underlying story was background to a larger narrative.

This time though, there’s so little to chew on – all the world-building detail that Moore usually takes such time building up, is blurted out fairly early on – that all you really have is a set of unlikely protagonists undertaking a chase/rescue mission in enemy territory with the interesting 30 per cent of the story having already taken place off panel.