It's difficult to look at the last 30 years of comics and not see Alan Moore's influence on the medium. He cut his comic teeth on books like 2000AD, Captain Britain, Doctor Who and Star Wars Weekly. But it was his work on books like V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Batman: The Killing Joke, and, of course, Watchmen, where Moore left his mark on mainstream comics.
From there, he moved into independents, and eventually gave us The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, a new take on the “super team” featuring characters from novels teaming up to save the day. These included H. G. Wells' Invisible Man, Bram Stoker's Wilhelmina Murray (Dracula), H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo.
Moore revisits the world he created in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman in a new book, Nemo: Heart of Ice, which focuses on Janni Dakkar, daughter of Captain Nemo, and her trek across Antarctica to prove herself by recreating Nemo's own Antarctic expedition. Moore draws from several sources, including H.P. Lovercraft, to create a dark and mysterious continent full of dangers and madness. As a character, Janni feels the weight of the Nemo name and legacy set squarely on her shoulders, and struggles throughout the book to come to terms with that.
This sounds like a great premise, and it is. However, it doesn't all work—or at least, it didn't for me. Janni and the crew of the Nautilus begin the story with an act of piracy causing an American to hire “American Adventurers” to track them down and return what was stolen. You get the sense early on of an impending confrontation, but it never really materializes. Antarctica, and the strange lands, peoples and creatures Janni and the Americans encounter along the way, become the real dangers. Yes, Janni is being pursued by the Americans, and the body count rises quickly, but it's the elements of other authors’ works—like Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness—that create the real tension. To a point.
Moore likes to weave a fairly complex web, intermingling names and places from literary works and history into his narratives, and Heart of Ice is no exception. But where The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen could be considered a grand and epic tale, Heart of Ice reads more like a one-shot—even a footnote—or maybe the prologue to something yet to come. Janni as a character feels like she is only beginning her story, and perhaps that was Moore’s intent. And the American Adventurers serve no purpose, really. Janni was going into Antarctica with or without them pursuing her. The tension they create quickly dissipates as Antarctica itself becomes the greater danger to both groups.
Fans of Moore's League will enjoy the book as an addition to the bigger universe, but for me, it fell a little flat. I wanted something more.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal). He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012 and a 2013 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.