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Saturday, April 26, 2014


A Review of Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's THE ROSES OF BERLIN

It's a deceptively slim volume, telling a straightforward action story. But things are never what they seem in any of the classic LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN graphic novels from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. THE ROSES OF BERLIN is no exception.

First and foremost, if you've seen the movie starring Sean Connery and haven't read the novels, then please, you need to wipe your memory clean. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie as a great mash-up of classic literary characters - it's a wild ride. But the movie has about as much in common with the novels as Bernie Gunther has with Bambi.
Here's the thumbnail synopsis of THE ROSES OF BERLIN. It begins with Captain Nemo's pirate daughter, Janni, happily raiding German shipping. She learns that an airship carrying her daughter and her son-in-law has been shot down. The daughter went down with the ship and is assumed dead. Her husband is being tortured in Berlin. Janni, worthy of her birthright, is not someone you want to go up against and now the Germans have killed her daughter. She's going to Berlin to free her son-in-law and get revenge - big time!
And that's it. Even feasting your eyes on O'Neill's incredibly quirky artwork, it won't take you but half an hour or so to read this tight tale. Some great action, great dialogue and a... different Berlin. Nothing to it, right?


To read a LEAGUE novel, you have to slap on your fedora and become Indiana Jones because Moore packs an encyclopedia of pop culture and literary references into every volume. Don't let the size of THE ROSES OF BERLIN fool you. You'll need hours, days, maybe even weeks and months to get the full enjoyment out of it. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

The Berlin depicted here is Metropolis from the movie of the same name. It is ruled with an iron grip by the dictator from Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR. Nemo and her associates are up against the robot, Maria, from Metropolis, Dr. Mabuse, Dr. Caligari and She from the Haggard novels. Along the way there are references to other Jules Verne characters, Godzilla, King Kong, The Man From U.N.C.L.E and James Bond. And those are just the biggies. Further references are made to obscure works of the time and from the 1800s. They all go in the meat grinder of Alan Moore's mind and come out in a captivating concoction that is a joy to read.

One does not read THE ROSES OF BERLIN, one excavates it! Panel by panel. If you're a pop culture junkie and just love delving into a great work with exacting precision, this new LEAGUE entry will scratch you right where you itch. If you're just in the mood for a fast-paced journey into an alternate Berlin, THE ROSES OF BERLIN will satisfy as well. Moore's strength is that the book can be read both ways. It's straight up adventure, or you can go long - you choose your level of immersion. You can also test your German reading comprehension as several pages featuring the German adversaries take authenticity to a new level and the dialogue is IN German with no subtitles.

 If you haven't read any of the LEAGUE books, then this is as good a place as any to start. THE ROSES OF BERLIN delivers. Some taut plotting and fantastic artwork - it's got everything a great comic should have. Don't miss it!

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