Nemo: The Roses of Berlin – Review

While The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen might have begun as Alan Moore’s found-object art experiment, it’s now evolved into its own legitimate franchise — with its own fully developed and original characters. And with Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, Moore offers the second installment of a trilogy dedicated to one of his most unique creations yet: Janni Dakkar, the kick-ass daughter of famed pirate Captain Nemo.

Here’s the official word from Top Shelf Productions:

Continuing in the thrilling tradition of Heart of Ice, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill rampage through twentieth-century culture in a blazing new adventure, set in a city of totalitarian shadows and mechanical nightmares. Cultures clash and lives are lost in the explosive collision of four unforgettable women, lost in the black and bloody alleyways where thrive THE ROSES OF BERLIN.

It’s 1941, and after the tumultuous events of Nemo: Heart of Ice, Janni Dakkar has settled down a bit, meaning nemo_roses_of_berlin_cover_sm_lgshe’s a mom, wife, and (of course) the humble leader of pirate syndicate. Content to simply pillage and rob, Janni Dakkar and her husband Jean Robur are shaken into action by Roses inciting incident: the kidnapping of their daughter by a group of science-obsessed Nazis. What follows is your standard Rescue-Revenge narrative as Janni and Jean storm a Metropolis-inspired Berlin, batting robots, immortals, and, quite honestly, a whole bunch of women.

Yes, it’s true, for a franchise dedicated to gents, Roses is the most female-heavy story to date: the victim, villain, and hero are all female; and the men are little more than moving props. While one might expect that Moore would use this set-up as an opportunity to explore gender in a male dominated franchise, it becomes clear almost immediately that character development is not on the top of Moore’s agenda. Instead, Moore is all about creating mood and developing setting — Berlin, and the seedy underworld created by the ‘Twilight Heroes’ are the real characters here, offering both depth and texture. Roses, like most of Moore’s more recent and esoteric works, is chock-full of veiled literary references and film homages. And while hardcore Moore fans might *love* this, readers looking for plot and finely tuned characters might not be satisfied with Roses — Janni Dakkar is pretty one-dimensional; even when facing the death of her daughter the best she can offer is more swordplay and angry stares.

Kevin O’Neill has been Moore’s go-to-artist for this entire franchise, and the artwork on Roses once again proves why. O’Neill can shift from macro to micro almost effortlessly — his pages can offer exquisitely detailed close-ups one moment, and then blow-out to rich landscapes the next. This gift is especially necessary with Roses, given this work’s emphasis on big atmosphere over discrete plot. O’Neill offers some beautifully detailed and highly mechanized visions of Berlin here, and I often myself lingering on his full-page spreads just to catch all that he had done.

It’s likely that not everyone will love Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, especially those looking for a script reminiscent of earlier League books. Moore’s approach to these books has certainly changed over the years, and his audience has narrowed as a result. Moore’s move towards producing books heavy on appendices, special bindings, and hidden messages has made him less of a writer and more of a bookmaker and Nemo: The Roses of Berlin feels more like a piece of art than a comic as a result. But hey, it’s still a pretty damn good piece of art.


+ Beautiful Art; Chock-Full of Easter Eggs

- Thin on Plot