Avatar Press has really been a saving grace in comics these last five or six years. Sure, there are points where I feel as though they may be willing to publish ANYTHING by some of the more iconic ‘Vertigo’ authors of the previous era. And anything, while allowing for some less-than-grand ideas to come through and play out, also inevitably leads to gold. For one I am glad to support a company that can be somewhat of an open-air writing exercise for my favorite comics authors, and realistically the ‘subpar’ output is next to nothing compared to some of the grandiose achievements they’ve given us: Doktor Sleepless, Black Summer, No Hero, Gravel and The Chronicles of Wormwood have all been out-of-the-park shots in my book, and now these are followed by an unexpected beacon of light in the ever-muddling Lovecraft-contagion:
Alan Moore’s Neonomicon.
Moore has done some Lovecraft stuff before that seemed to recede into the din for me – that may very well be my own fault and not the author’s: the fairly recent realization that Lovecraft’s mythos, something I’ve cherished since first tracking down a copy of Lurker at the Threshold at the local Record Swap of all places when I was probably a Sophomore in high school*, is quickly becoming the new accelerated genre, i.e. – zombies. At first this was a bit… disquieting. Of course it’s great that so many new tales can be added to the mythos, much like August Derleth, Robert E. Howard and many others did back in Lovecraft’s day, but when is too much going to become an overindulgence of crap?
(Maybe it won’t, until someone writes the ‘Twilight’ of the mythos and has three backwoods Appalachian teens trying to figure out who loves who while summoning from the Necronomicon)
So yeah, it was reeling from the first initial backlash at ‘over-Lovecrafting’ that I ignored Moore’s The Courtyard despite the fact that the man has proven himself again and again.
I almost made that mistake with Neonomicon as well. However two weeks ago when I stepped foot into my favorite comic shop in the world, Amazing Fantasy (southside of Chicago baby!) and came face-to-face with the actual cover, I knew it was on.
And boy, is it on.
Neonomicon is not just another Lovecraft spin-off, it is shaping up to be a self-aware summoning in bold 2D glory (thank to Jacen Burrows whose art is FANTASTIC!!!). In the two issues published thus far the story begins with federal agents investigating a cult. From there the book quickly becomes one of the most disturbing additions to Lovecraft’s order in quite some time. I don’t want to spoil anything but let me just lay out a few words and we’ll see how you feel about them.
Orgy to summon the Old Ones for sex.
What’s more the characters take place in our world, i.e. they are completely aware as they move through the story and encounter people, places and things that some of them are named after works of fiction, and this keeps it flush with the feel of Lovecraft’s original stories. Thus far main character Agent Merril Brears has the English-major background to recognize the allusions to Lovecraft, as her and her partner Gordon Lamper lead us into the maze via an initially creepy but almost mundane police procedural that quickly slips into that hazy and familiar ‘Weird’ that classifies so much of Lovecraft’s work.
The funny thing to is in writing this I discovered that Neonomicon is indeed something of a sequel to Moore’s The Courtyard, which was originally a short story he wrote in the early/mid nineties.
When will I learn just to trust in Alan Moore?
* In the last 10-15 years Lovecraft editions have become easier and easier to find in any ol’ bookstore and that is great. However, when I was first introduced to him via researching, of all things, metallica’s The Thing That Should Not Be & the inscription on Eddie’s grave on the cover of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death, no book store in the suburbs had them. This was before borders, back when there were the mall stores (i.e. Krocks and Bretano, Walden books and… what was that other one?) and that was it unless you lived in the city and had some cool indie shop to frequent. So by chance I found Lurker At The Threshold, not even an actual Lovecraft book but one by his friend/colleague August Derleth, at the Record Swap next to The Anarchist’s Cookbook and a JG Ballard novel. From there it was love, ravenous love.