Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two seemingly unrelated comic reviews


NEMO: The Roses Of Berlin (Top Shelf, 2014) ****1/2
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Kevin O'Neill

My love/hate relationship with Alan Moore continues. The bearded git is equally obnoxious and brilliant these days. Petulantly refusing to let his name be associated with Marvel's reprinting of his brilliant Miracleman series from the 1980s and childishly attacking a clearly unconcerned Grant Morrison does Mr Moore no favours.
Then he comes along and produces another brilliant bit of historical meta-fiction like NEMO: The Roses Of Berlin and I can't really hate him again.
This stand-alone graphic novel - set in 1940s Germany - sees the second Captain Nemo and her lover Broad Arrow Jack invade a futuristic Berlin to rescue her daughter and son-in-law, who've been captured as enemies of war.
While there the pair encounter the the Twilight Heroes, a Teutonic version of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlement. Nemo also crosses paths with a deadly old enemy.
This and the previous Nemo graphic novel have worked much better than many of Moore's more recent LOEG instalments and I hope he continues doing them. Tightly written, action-packed and never wandering up its own arsehole - one might say this is a strong return to form for the hairy old bastard.
O'Neill's art is exquisitely beautiful, as usual.

Unmasked #1-3 (Gestalt, 2013) ****1/4
Writer: Christian Read/Artists: Emily K. Smith (#1-2); Gary Chaloner (#3)
Digging into the psychology of superpowered folk who get off on wearing garish costumes and beating each other up has been done before - and probably done better. But it's rare for Aussies to give it a go, so Read is to be commended for not only tackling a rather worn-out topic but doing it with gusto and a certain originality.
And the fact that he's convinced local legend Gary Chaloner to return to mainstream comics is another huge plus to this miniseries.
Actually, the first two issues are drawn by Emily Smith and are perfectly fine, but you can feel the artistic standards go up another couple of notches when Chaloner comes on board with issue three.
Read's story - which, I guess, for commercial reasons ISN'T set in Australia - deals with a supervillain couple, Simon and Nancy, who've quit crime (well, just about) because they were sick of getting beaten up by more powerful superheroes. But their lives as "normal people" have no meaning now and their relationship is suffering.
When given the chance by their old boss to get back into the crime game, they leap at the chance to make easy money, but are frustrated that they're not allowed to wear their long underwear and masks. Turns out that being successful crims isn't what drives them - it's the turn-on of killing innocent people and punching out superheroes.
Eventually, it all gets too much for our "heroes" and they return to their old ways, garnering unwanted attention from the good guys and heat from their comrades.
It sets up an explosive finish for the fourth and final issue, especially as we already know that Simon is telling his story as a flashback while stuck in prison.
Unmasked is available as a digital-only comic at this stage and can be bought at http://www.gestaltcomics.com. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for issue four.
Now...if I can just get my hands on some original Chaloner art...

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