Besides, B-Sides – Neonomicon

Vol 7: Alan Moore’s Neonomicon

Neonomicon #1-4

I’m not huge on Avatar press.

The fact that they let creators do as they wish with original property, and they maintain a liberal submissions policy is admirable. Their talent scout has fantastic taste, having hired Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, David Lapham, Jonathan Hickman, Alan Moore, and others. They even have a handful of good books, with their flagship title Crossed in particular having some fantastic runs.

But then there’s everything else about Avatar. They’re sleazy, cheap, and don’t generally feature art worthy of its story. A good portion of their books exist on the back of pornography generally absent of eroticism, violence without apparent point, and thin storylines, to say the least. A truly excellent Avatar book is a very rare thing.

And that’s exactly what Neocomicon is.

Existing somewhere between the common Avatar fare and Moore class, Neonomicon operates as a classically Lovecraft-ian horror and murky noir. Partially employing the common “lost in the weeds” protagonist present in such classics as The Call of the Cthulu and The Shadow over Innsmouth, Moore turns that idea on its head by not only making said protagonist a detective, but also a woman. Even casual readers of Lovecraft’s work can testify to diversity even in a male/female sense, not being one of his strong suits. But then again, that want to challenge Lovecraft is baked into the story.

Following the two murders, our lead, Agent Lamper and her partner investigate a mysterious drug dealer named Johnny Carcosa (subtlety isn’t on the menu here). Carcosa eventually leads them into what becomes the more horrific end: old ones, ancient rites and all. The manner in which he does so though, by not only making Lamper a whole, sexually independent person (something Lovecraft was not a fan of), and approaching the racism present as not only violent, but wholly despicable, offers a more modern and thought out approach.

One of Moore’s many strongpoints has always been his ability to approach, reveal but not explicitly condemn. H.P. Lovecraft was a puritanical racist, and Moore knows it. What he does though is make that perspective work for him, by reversing it. When Lamper’s partner, Agent Brears is brutally murdered amid a chorus of racial epithets (not to mention burgeoning orgy), the intent is completely different than its source material. The murder is wrenching, and an act of pure evil by a cabal of villains. Likewise, the orgy they prepare for, something that Lovecraft would have skirted as “horrifying ceremonies” or some such thing, is surely evil, but not for the act itself. The people taking part truly enjoy the sexuality on display; it’s just what they’re doing it for that’s horrifying.

What Neonomicon offers is multifaceted. It’s a horror story, well told, and a riff on Lovecraft. It’s a detective story, and a steady handed reconstruction of Lovecraft-ian ideas that manages to make it applicable to modern readers outside of the mere presence of the green guy with the tentacles. It’s an Avatar book with all of the titillation and bloodshed that comes with, but also a great read.

And on top of all of that, it’ll also looks really good on a bookshelf providing the old ones don’t wake and make appetizers of us all.