Alan Moore
Nemo: River of Ghosts
Medium: comic
Year: 2015
Keywords: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, favourite
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill
Format: 72 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 13 January 2022
Ayesha might still be alive in South America, so an eighty-year-old Janni sets off to kill her. Again. Her family think she's crazy, as do her friends in the league of villains. She is, though, taking allies. The most impressive one is Hugo Hercules, a short-lived comic strip character from seventeen weekly strips in the Chicago Tribune that started in September 1902. Obscure? Hell, yes, but he's also considered the earliest superhero fiction comic. Moore's version has super-strength and a history of killing people for money, but he's also good-natured, simple and likeable.
Janni's other allies include the ghosts of all her dead friends and family. She has a brain tumour and she sometimes talks to them.
I love this story. I was luke-warm about Century's immortals, but this is the flip side of that. This finale is why I said the Nemo trilogy was the best part of the League. Remember also that Janni's refused two offers of immortality from that African pool. Other League members went on living forever (and didn't enjoy it), but the Nemos have aged, had children, died and been succeeded by them. Generational stories are powerful. Incidentally, that theme includes Hugo Hercules. Metaphorically, he's the father of all superheroes... and literally, wonderfully, he's the father of Desperate Dan. Yes, from The Dandy. The one who lives in Cactusville and eats cow pies.
I love Moore's mix of sources. In addition to his heroes, there's The Lost World, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Boys from Brazil and more. There's an army of buxom fetish Nazi girls ("bikinitrons"), yet Moore and O'Neill are comparatively restrained with the naked tit count.
In this trilogy, Moore's retreated from the artistically lofty, less plot-driven ambitions of Century and plunged back into pulp and all the conventions of boys' adventure comics... resulting in, for me, greater emotional depth. The Nemo family is great, especially Janni. They're ultra-violent pirates whose idea of "an eye for an eye" will cost you your head and probably also those of everyone else in the building. I love the eponymous ghosts. I love Hugo Hercules.
It's a cool adventure, but it's also deeper than that. It's funny and moving, with an ending that makes it special.