There is an unspoken rule among aficionado’s that, if spoken, would translate into something like this : Never call them comics. So it is that a new term was coined and the pieces created by the medium’s auteurs (Moore, Gaiman and Morrison to name a few) are now called Graphic Novels. Though the term doesn’t rightly apply to this particular work, if anything it is a graphic novella as it only runs a meek fourty-eight pages in length and is big-paneled to boot. Anyone familiar with Moore’s work will know though that his style is so dense that he can fit more into a splash page than others can a three-issue arc.
Some examples you ask? The story told over the course of the graphic novella is that of FBI investigator Aldo Sax, a deep-cover operative in the urban ghetto of Red Fern who is tasked with investigating a series of brutal but bafflingly un-connectable murders that have occurred recently in the area. Aldo is called in especially because of his rather unique ability to construct abstract patterns; whereas the vast majority of Bureau agents can create complex character models based on a series of logical connections and assumptions (as seen on Criminal Minds for example) his abilities mean that he can take the outlying information, the unreliable and seemingly unimportant details and use them to create more unusual narratives. This itself is an interesting concept and seeing it in action is quite clever, because of the bizzare direction the case takes it is however quickly forced into a back seat position.
Though I will not go into detail, lest I ruin some of the stories many surprises, it is necessary to note that despite the lead character’s career path, the gritty, drug-fueled universe he finds himself in and the constant, wry voice-over that he delivers this story is inspired much more by H.P. Lovecraft than it is Raymond Chandler. Though there are no great sea-beasties in sight or anything as supernatural the story does focus on the cults that worship the most infamous of Old Ones, Cthulhu; and more specifically the most recognizable element of Lovecraft’s work, the bizarre language. Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail, suffice to say this story somewhat parallels that of the vastly underrated zombie-film Pontypool in its look into the inherent power of language to shape the way in which we see the world around us and the way in which said world works.
It is rather heady stuff if you wish to think on it and a proper reading requires at minimum a passing knowledge of Lovecraft’s work (four or five assorted stories should do) but for those that meet such a standard this is a quick, interesting read that is entirely unlike anything else on your shelf. Its only flaw for me was its brevity, I wanted more of this world and its characters, and thankfully Moore felt willing to oblige me as he recently finished writing a full-length follow up Neonomicon that is due for a bound release over the coming months.