As of 1991’s From Hell, Alan Moore, the mad monk of comic-books, stopped writing the sort of things that most people want to read, possibly to discourage Hollywood from adapting it (although it’s not working, even given how dense From Hell was and still they found a way to have Johnny Depp impersonate David Beckham) and making all of Northampton tremble with his rage. Since his bitter divorce from mainstream comics, the emphasis in Moore’s writing has shifted from storytelling to picking at the scabs of ideas, and anyone looking for braindead cape-on-cape action has long since learnt to look elsewhere.
Neonomicon amazingly ticks both boxes, being an almost metatextual analysis and exploration of HP Lovecraft’s racism and sexual phobias, but framed as an investigation, complete with conclusion. A pair of FBI agents (and an extraordinarily racist one in a three issue prologue, ‘The Courtyard’) investigate a mystery drug, a cult/sex ring, and a series of uncanny murders, all seemingly inspired by HP Lovecraft’s stories.
It’s extremely graphic, with impossibly vile visuals and scenarios that stay with you long after the pages have stopped turning – perhaps more in spite of Jacen Burrows’ somewhat clinical art than because of it, and that’s Neonomicon’s perverse strength. Without the effluent scenes that constantly bubble in your fragile mindtank like some sort of demonic influence all of their own, Alan Moore’s latest work is surprisingly conventional in structure. Aside from the tentacles and dead languages, it’s so tightly bound to the framework of a police procedural that we can be fairly sure some network somewhere are eying it up to fill the Fringe/Haven void in their schedule.
And we can be fairly sure he’d hate that.