What on Infinite Earths: The Courtyard and Neonomicon
When tasked with
choosing a horror comic to talk about for Halloween I was spoiled for
choice. I have read some absolutely amazing horror comics this year
from some of the most talented writers and artists in the business.
But while some of them may have provoked discomfort or disgust there
was only one that made me feel genuinely horrified.
Alan Moore is one of the best known writers in comics, he reshaped the medium through some of his classic works like V for Vendetta and Watchmen. As time went by he drifted further and further from the mainstream of comics, developed his interest in the occult and published an amazing series of comics called Yuggoth Cultures that I was lucky enough to pick up back when they were available. These short vignettes and serialised stories probed the edges of the Lovecraft Mythos with the same sharp insight of his earlier work.
Many years later he returned to Lovecraft in the duology of The Courtyard and Neonomicon, which are the comics I am discussing today. Moore’s understanding of the supernatural world bleeds through into every part of his work. Items that may seem to have no significance have layers of hidden meaning and items that seem to be incredibly important mean nothing at all when the context of the story shifts. Of the two stories, the prequel The Courtyard, is the easier to stomach. It follows an odd investigator, obsessed with finding patterns through the use of anomalous information, as he tries to find the link between a series of murders, all of which seem to tie together only in a Lovecraft obsessed subculture.
The first book assumes the metaphysical position of chaos magic, the underlying ontological argument that any god that is imagined actually exists as a facet of humanity and therefore as part of the larger collective unconscious mind of the universe. It is only when you move on to the Neonomicon that you get the more common switch to the pattern of a horror writer who was actually only documenting real events with the serial numbers filed off. On its own this explanation is rather bland and well tread but when you combine it with the first book’s position it creates an interesting supposition between belief and reality that once again speaks to Moore’s special interests.
Neonomicon is much
darker than The Courtyard, and given that The Courtyard revolves
around unsolved serial murder and the influence of dark gods driving
humanity beyond sanity and up to a higher plane of existence you can
imagine that it is pretty rough. The final punch of the story is not
terrible exciting, although it closes off the plot neatly and gives
the whole piece a perfect thematic arch mired in existential dread.
The interim parts of the story, where you are forced to experience
the brutality, are the sections that make this a true horror story
rather than just weird fiction.
It is impossible to talk about Neonomicon without discussing the forced confinement, hopelessness and rape of the main character. It is grotesque, sickening and brutal. One of the most realistic depictions of the most evil act humans can commit despite the bizarre elements and the direction that the plot twists. The most powerful and visceral part of this book is also the reason that I cannot widely recommend it.