Hey, Wally Sage! [Neonomicon #2]

October 11th, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

Hey Wally Sage, star of Flex Mentallo and lifelong comics fan, how do you feel about Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’s Neonomicon 02, published by Avatar Press?

Yeah, me too, buddy. That book was vile and put me off Alan Moore entirely. Jog’s review explains exactly how foul it is, and has a few of the reasons why I hated it.

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29 comments to “Hey, Wally Sage! [Neonomicon #2]”

  1. It’s difficult because while I had a similar reaction, Moore is still the guy working with disenfranchised kids on a communitarian and arguably humanitarian project (Dodgem Logic), and has, in my view, written some of the most humane comics around. One albeit astonishingly unpleasant issue of Neonomicon doesn’t cancel that out.

    I do, however, hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come. Not sure I can stomach any more rapes, that’s for sure.

  2. I’m not seeing how Jog’s review in any way states this book was bad (It wasn’t).

  3. @Zom: Plenty of people do very nice things. Mark Millar has donated to charity and run several auctions to benefit his brother’s (?) school, but he still hasn’t written a comic worth reading probably since Enemy of the State. Bendis has a daughter I’m sure he loves very much, but hey, Secret Invasion still ended with a whimper.

    I get what Moore is doing in Neonomicon, and I think that Jog is dead-on in his interpretation of it, but I found it off-putting to an absolutely amazing extent. It was the kind of book that I’d generally stop reading several pages in, and I only pushed through because of Jog’s review and a couple comments from friends, really. I’m tired of Moore. I think he’s clinical and cold, and while he’s clearly talented, I haven’t genuinely enjoyed one of his books in ages. I’m tired of him criticizing comics for “raping” Watchmen, a stupid complaint, not being any good, and whatever else was on his laundry list from that absurd tell-all from last month (and twice a year previously). Neonomicon only has structure going for it, and to be honest, that isn’t enough for me to sit through first person multiple page rape scenes.

    He was in a bad mood over Watchmen? He should’ve punched a pillow and manned up rather than writing this one.

    This was just the tipping point. I won’t miss him, I don’t think.

    @Red Scharlach: I didn’t say Jog explained why it was bad. I said he explains how foul it is. Which he does–he talks about the rape, the dialogue, the plot, the bleakness of the work, etc etc.

  4. Moore’s gained too much of my respect to lose it over one horrid project. Everyone drops the ball once in a while. I’m willing to be forgiving.

  5. Okay, I’ve not read this book, and probably won’t- because it’s a horror story, intended to revolt and disturb, and that’s not really my thing (it used to be, but as I’ve got older I no longer get the same thrill from transgressive fiction that I did).

    Thing is, though, it sounds like it does the job it sets out to do pretty comprehensively. Getting annoyed with Moore for that seems a bit odd to me. I’m a huge fan of Garth Ennis, but there’s no damn way I’m reading Crossed- though if I did, I wouldn’t swear off reading his other work because of things that happen it.

  6. @David Wynne: I think there’s a difference between effective horror (28 Days Later, some of the better ’80s flicks, what have you) and a long, slow shot on a needle being slowly inserted into an eyeball while the subject screams, you know? I know (and sometimes enjoy, though enjoy may be the wrong word) what being scared/repulsed is like. This one felt like the latter to me. It felt like exploitation, rather than genuine horror.

    Even Crossed feels tame in comparison. There’s a lot of ugly, stupid crap in that book, but it never made me want to throw it across the room. Roll my eyes, though– yes, often and vigorously.

  7. You didn’t like 1985, David?

  8. Sorry, David, I was imputing opinions to you that you don’t perhaps hold, although it’s hard to tell from such a terse critical reaction. To restate, while this comic reeks of misanthropy and misogyny, and deals in a sadistic kind of horror about which I have very conflicted feelings, I struggle to tie those things up with someone who expresses the kind of humane opinions Alan Moore is on record as expressing, both through his comics and his broader career as a writer. I’m not saying that the guy is merely nice (loves his Mum), or that he occasionally does good things (gives to charity), I’m saying that he has been, and continues to be (perhaps more than ever – see Dodgem Logic for evidence), a voice for political ideas that run counter to precisely the sorts of things that I dislike about Neonomicon 2.

    Old grump he may be, and yes I think it is at least arguable that he has behaved badly recently. I can also see the clinical argument, although I’d love to see it actually fleshed out for once, because it seems to me that it might contain some specious reasoning. But ultimately I’m not ready to give up on Moore, I still enjoy LoEG immensely, and I still enjoy his articles in DL, and I’m still interested in his new novel, even if it’s likely to contain far too many adjectives.

  9. I can understand why you don’t like it (or at least, I think I do), but I enjoy it as a horror comic. Yes it’s foul and mean, but that’s often part of the genre. If you asked me to name a good horror manga, and I could name you eight titles, and that’s not including anything by Junji Ito. On the American side, things are far more few and far between, especially on mainstream titles. Beyond all the gore, Crossed had some fantastic moments of hopelessness, and as good as Walking Dead is, I don’t read it for the scares.

    Meanwhile, the last six pages of this comic was one of the best examples of the banality of evil and the dread of an overwhelming horror descending down I’ve seen in a long time from any American publisher. Just how flippant the orgy members are about the act really got to me. It’s a truly hopeless situation Brears is in, and I have no idea how she’s going to get out if it, if at all. I suppose it still counts as exploitation, but it is a very different kind of exploitation you see in the Saw movies or Hostel, which work on gore or dramatization of torture. This comic didn’t use those tropes and it felt much more psychologically disturbing, probably because the people in the pool felt so mundane both in their looks and how they treated their actions. I understand the criticism of drawn out torture scenes, but I making this a Hitchcock scene would not have served the moment.

    Beyond all the Lovecraft references and the meta-commentary on comic books, I’m glad to have Neonomicon for creating real dread to a thin genre in comic books, and not the normal dread I feel when I read something like Identity Crisis or Kick-Ass.

    Also, could you describe what you mean by “effective horror”? I’ll probably agree with it, but I had trouble teasing it out from your examples and contrast. 28 Days Later was fine, but it was never more than a rental for me, and late 80s had some very good and very bad horror movies.

  10. @Dane: Effective horror is the stuff that works, basically. I don’t have a grand theory on it or anything, and the definition is probably pretty incredibly subjective, but it’s the horror that gives you nightmares, chills, makes you grip the armrest on your chair without noticing, etc etc. I’m not sure why 28 Days Later worked for me so well (I think it was maybe the empty city stuff? and it hasn’t been as scary as it was the first time), but I’d also put The Thing (spot-on creeping dread) and Hellraiser (I saw it when I was a kid, though) up as effective horror. Did you ever read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in grade school? Those had some great moments, too. There were actually bits of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster that got to me, though I guess that’d just be straight up suspense? “Effective horror” is just “scared me.” Neonomicon was just unpleasant. It didn’t scare me. “Look at this terrible stuff happening. Doesn’t it make you feel bad?”

    I think the only time I’ve ever been scared by a cape comic was back when Kulan Gath crossed over with Spider-Man, but I was young and stupid back then!

    @Zom: For the clinical bit–the stuff of his I like the most I’ve felt like has more heart than the stuff of his I don’t particularly enjoy. Top Ten is probably my favorite overall, with V for Vendetta second. I’m working on a Watchmen piece for later this week, and I think that’ll give me a chance to expand on my clinical point. I wrote an essay on it three years ago, but I just reread it and it’s overall crap, so I should probably go ahead and think through how I feel and put pen to paper. I’d put Watchmen in as cold, though.

  11. I think I agree with @Dane on this one – this book really creeped me out, which doesn’t happen very often. Thus, for me it was effective horror, albeit somewhat unpleasant (which I think all horror is, in some respects).

  12. The fact that various bloggers are on constant watch to take any opportunity to write lengthy articles about their own personal relationship with Alan Moore, and how they’ve taken it upon themselves to feel “hurt” by minutiae of whatever he does and says…goes a long way in helping me understand why Alan Moore wants nothing to do with you guys or the scene you’re into.

    I haven’t read a new Alan Moore comic since Promethea. I don’t care about something called Neonomicon. I think Alan Moore is probably the best comic writer in history, based on his past work. I don’t need to keep an active count on his every little interview or comment. He’s said things I agree with. He’s said things I don’t agree with.

    But you guys are so precious and over-emotional about this stuff. Have fun convincing yourself that you’re actually hurt and offended by what Alan Moore thinks about x, y, and z . . . when Alan Moore probably has a lot closer relationship with x and y than you do. You don’t like how Alan Moore is mean to his ex-friends, whom he says weren’t nice enough to him to keep them as friends? Save that gossip talk for the barber shop or the beauty shop or whatever. After you get done talking about that, you can gossip about whether or not Lindsey Lohan’s ex is being supportive enough to her lately.

    I would be absolutely embarrassed for myself if I acted all indignant, offended, and permanently heartbroken the way so many of you guys act regarding Alan Moore. You guys are on such self-righteous trips sometimes that it’s nauseating.

  13. @thene: Hahaha! So did you just go and search out for Alan Moore posts on the internet and paste this comment wherever you find one? Because that has nothing to do with what David’s said at all.

    Four sentences and two images of David saying he doesn’t enjoy a comic = “lengthy articles about their own personal relationship with Alan Moore”

    What’s it like white knighting a wizard?

  14. @thene: Suck a dick, son.

  15. “Yeah, me too, buddy. That book was vile and put me off Alan Moore entirely. Jog’s review explains exactly how foul it is, and has a few of the reasons why I hated it.”

    aw man why did you have to go and write a lengthy article about your own personal relationship with alan moore, david brothers, comic blogger?

  16. I’m slightly concerned about the rather simplistic way the word ‘unpleasant’ has been used in this thread. Unpleasantness, isn’t, as far as I can tell, what people are objecting to, or at least it isn’t *all* they are objecting to. Is the depiction of rape merely ‘unpleasant’? Is it appropriate to describe this book as misogynistic? These are the sorts of questions which hang around Neonomicon 2 like a bad stink.

  17. @Zom: What’s simplistic about it? I could have said “This book is gross for these eight reasons,” but that’s not this post. All of those things you mentioned are reasons to dislike Neonomicon, and I think everyone involved in the discussion already knows that.

  18. That’s what I’m not getting here: How does Jog’s analysis make the work out as one that should be disliked?

  19. @Red Scharlach: Jog, in his analysis, discusses the mechanics of the rape, the dialogue, etc etc. That’s what I have a problem with in the book. Jog discusses the impact. My complaint is with the content.

  20. Up front I’ll say I could have done without reading Neonomicon today or any other day, but sadly, the last few pages are probably defensible within the context of North American comic books as a medium – they present rape and murder as utterly grotesque and devoid of any value as titillation, something most mainstream comics can’t convincingly claim to do.

    I agree with Thene to a certain extent that a lot of Moore critique stems from personal relationships with Moore only in that he’s a polorising figure among fandom who instills an instant reaction to his work among readers, but I hope I’ve phrased that in a less bitter and entitled (and by extension hypocritical) manner than Thene managed. I may be imagining it, but a lot of criticism seems to come from those invested in some form in the industry about which Moore is deeply critical – speaking as a native West Euro scumbag, if you’re going to expose yourself to the opinions of a working class Northerner, you’d better not have thin skin about the subject under discussion as those coaldust-sniffing ale-chuggers are one miserable bunch of bastards.

    I say that with all the love and respect in my heart – but they really are.

  21. David, I failed to make myself properly understood in my last comment. The word unpleasant worries me because I don’t believe it’s broad enough, or indeed a specific enough to accommodate the sorts of issues that we, as intelligent readers of this book, should be wrestling with. I don’t wish to teach you suck eggs here but I need to get this out to fully make my point: misogyny and depictions of rape have distinctly political and ethical dimensions, dimensions which I believe are obscured by the use of the term unpleasant, which is normally associated with matters of taste and feeling.

    When I described the use of the term as “simplistic” that wasn’t code for “you are being a simpleton”, it was a deliberate attempt to point out that unpleasant, in this context, lacks the necessary complexity to properly convey the sorts of problems a feminist, say, might have with the comic.

    I’m not looking to take you to task here, you posted a terse, spiky response to a book which you found objectionable, which as far as I’m concerned is your right as a blogger. It’s how we roll sometimes, especially when something really pisses us off. I’m just setting out my stall in response to your comments, and my own botched attempt to properly articulate my thoughts.

  22. Moore’s thought Process for Neonomicon #2: “So they think Mark Millar is the rapingest, racistest UK comics writer, do they? I’ll show them! I’LL SHOW THEM ALL!”

  23. There are many, many things wrong with Neonomicon, including but not limited to bad art, an utter lack of interest in characterization, bad dialogue, poor reasoning (at one point I did a double-take when one of the characters says, “we know this must be a huge criminal conspiracy behind this, because look at all this porn!” Wait, what?), lazy overreliance on the Idiot Plot (“Y’know, Agent Man, I’m worried that something bad might happen to us when we walk naked into that naked orgy place, without any clear idea if who these people are or what they do there or why we’re going there or what to do once we get there.” “Don’t worry, Agent Woman, we’ll be wearing our guns right on us, in that naked orgy place, while we’re naked.”), and a tendency on the part of Moore to assume that the audience he’s writing for is made up of morons (“Hey, kids, I’ve been dropping references to this obscure ‘H. P. Lovecraft’ cat. Let me spell them out for you in the first couple pages, stupid!”).

    So, yes, this is a disgusting comic, this is an odious comic, this is a ridiculously misogynistic comic (oh, the victim of the gang-rape was previously a sex addict? I suppose the dirty slut had it coming, then!). But it should also be noted that it’s also just poorly made.

    And no, it’s not scary, either. Moore’s apparent intention – to take all the hidden, nameless stuff in Lovecraft and expose and name them – misses everything that makes Lovecraft creepy in the first place. Lovecraft is pretty basic, fear-of-the-dark stuff; what you don’t see is scarier than what you do. The only real horror-element that works here is those blurred-out panels, since they capture some of that something-horrible-is-happening-but-I-don’t-know-what-it-is feeling – but even that is undermined by the fact that we, the readers, of course know what’s going on, because Moore’s throwing a great big spotlight on it, and what he’s showing us isn’t scary so much as it’s just ugly. This comic didn’t make scared or anxious, it just made me sick and mad.

    Also: why is the Lovecraft monster drawn to look like a cast-off Spawn villain who’s lost his pants?

  24. Would you refuse to engage American Psycho as a work of art?

  25. @LaterComments: Who is refusing to engage anything as a work of art? I engaged it, found it wanting, and wrote it off.

  26. Fair enough, but your post gave the impression that you immediately rejected the work based on a visceral reaction. A valid personal reaction obviously, but mustn’t engaging in a critical artistic dialogue involve looking past one’s immediate reactions? Have you read American Psycho? If so, what were your thoughts on it?

  27. @LaterComments: I haven’t read (or seen) American Psycho because I figured I wouldn’t like it. I don’t mind violence/horror/whatever, but it didn’t sound like something I was interested in. I read Neonomicon all the way through. I wouldn’t be talking about it if I hadn’t.

    And no, engaging in critical artistic dialogue doesn’t have to involve looking past an immediate reaction. There’s something valid and raw in that first reaction, whether revulsion or attraction, and it’s worthy of discussion, I’d say.

  28. “That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.” – H.P. Lovecraft, [em]The Call of Cthulhu[/em]

    The final six pages of this issue are the best depiction of this important paragraph that I’ve ever seen. It is important that what the cultists are doing are probably the worst things we can imagine (murder and rape), and it is important that the tone of it is as banal as a porno, even funny. To the cultists, what they’re doing isn’t “good” or “evil.” They’re not the card-carrying villains we’re used to in comics and film, doing it out of a nihilistic desire to destroy order, humanity, or whatever. They aren’t acting out of a desire to bestow some kind of twisted enlightenment. They don’t even seem insane (a la the Joker), do they? They’re doing it purely for personal, sexual gratification; Brears’ attempts to bring morality and its opposite, immorality, into the situation simply slide off of them like water from a duck’s back.

    This, then, is exactly what Lovecraft meant, in six pages. People who no longer have any connection to good, evil, morality, immorality, sanity, or insanity. They’re just doing what pleases them. Pure unrestraint. And it’s horrifying.

  29. Wow. Someone writes something personally challenging and challenging to the reader so they are immediately labelled and discarded. I really don’t find the art bad, and the dialogue suits the milieu. What I find bad art are the Liefeld-brigade and their “imitators” and the staid, safe artists and writers who are not challenging us as reader on any level.