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Trading Up: Neonomicon

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FBI agents Gordon Lamper and Merril Brears, are investigating a number of ritualised killings that may be linked to the last case that former Bureau operative Aldo Sax worked on. But that assignment had far-reaching ramifications for Sax, who is now incarcerated in a maximum security institution. As the two somewhat headstrong and over confident agents pursue their quarry, they find themselves following an otherworldly trail that leads from sleazy nightclubs to a sinister cult, on the way to unlocking the very mysteries of reality itself.

The Neonomicon hardcover collects the two-issue Alan Moore’s The Courtyard series, which was an adaptation of Moore’s original prose story by Antony Johnston and Jacen Burrows, alongside the four parts that comprised Avatar Press’s Alan Moore’s Neonomicon. The Courtyard acts as something of a prelude piece to Neonomicon, setting up the story of agent Aldo Sax’s fall from grace and abandonment of his own definition of reality; themes that will later be extrapolated on to great effect by Moore in the hardcover’s main feature.

Both stories are crammed to the rafters with Lovecraftian references that will reward, and perhaps even delight, fans of the author’s mythos. But this is so much more than a continuity fest for Howard’s fanboy following. Neonomicon brings Lovecraft’s oeuvre to a contemporary setting and fleshes out (literally) the often unseen and unspeakable horrors of his fictional universe, with Moore placing his tale somewhere on the borderlands of metafiction - Lovecraft’s original work here posited as influenced by the Great Old Ones themselves.

Indeed Lovecraft’s own prejudices and insecurities regarding race and sex, never particularly difficult to discern in his stories, are reflected throughout the four chapters of the book, and one doesn’t have to look too hard to see Moore’s commentaries on both the man and his creations embedded into the storyline.

Jacen Burrows’s art can often be intriguingly understated for a tale that relies on such graphic and shocking imagery. But by portraying events with an almost commonplace visual realism, Burrows provides the reader with the most disconcerting type of horror; that which is firmly grounded in the recognisable world around us. Having been so successfully convinced of the naturalism of the story’s setting, it makes the reading experience all the more disquieting when the supernatural elements begin to come more to the fore towards the latter part of the book.

                   

It’s incumbent on me, without giving away too many significant parts of the plot, to warn potential readers that Neonomicon is an often difficult and deeply unsettling read. In Agent Brears we have a central character that fulfils a role so often seen in Lovecraft’s fiction; that of the protagonist doomed to an inescapable fate. But the set-up to that destiny includes an extended sequence that not just the easily offended will find a gruelling and demanding section of the book to get through.

Neonomicon is both Moore at his most arcane and, simultaneously, his most explicit. Uncompromisingly bleak and fatalistic, this is Lovecraft unrepressed – multi-layered horror that will squat unwelcome in the reader’s consciousness long after the book has been consigned to the back of a dusty, forgotten shelf.

The Neonomicon hardcover is available from Titan Books in the U.K. priced £20.99 and from Avatar Press in the U.S. priced $27.99.

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