Knockabout Comics Â£9.99/Top Shelf Productions $14.95 p/b comic
Reviewed by Mike Chinn
Now the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century series is completed, the Moore & Oâ€™Neill partnership has taken a step back in time to 1925, and chronicled an adventure from the new Captain Nemo: Princess Janni Dakkar, daughter of the original. After relieving a certain She Who Must Be Obeyed of a fortune in New York â€“ under the blustering gaze of one Charles Foster Kane â€“ back on the Nautilus, Janni declares that sheâ€™s bored with all the piracy and destruction. Her late father had once voyaged to the Antarctic, but never talked of what heâ€™d found there; since Prince Dakkar had launched the ill-fated expedition in a fury after Janni was born (heâ€™d wanted a son), she decides to take on the challenge herself. To be better than the son heâ€™d never had and succeed where her father had failed.
Kane meanwhile has hired a team to track Nemo down and recover the ageless Ayeshaâ€™s stolen valuables: led by an ageing Frank Read Jr. and Jack Wright Jr.; along with the brash, youthful Swyfte: a baby-faced misogynist and racist who also embodies all of the gung-ho drive of dime novel heroes of the period. His crass, caveman attitudes contrast with Janniâ€™s loyalty to her crew (even if she has a no less ruthless drive, and maybe even the heart of ice referred to in the title).
Apart from a brief detour via Metapatagonia, after the arrival at the Antarctic we are firmly in the recognisable territory of Lovecraftâ€™s At the Mountains of Madness â€“ complete with giant white penguins and vast, starfish-headed statuary. With the addition of bizarre, machine-gun equipped snow-speeders (straight out of a Republic film serial) and electric-powered weaponry â€“ all of which fit in with the post steampunk world Moore has created. Oâ€™Neillâ€™s spiky artwork complements both the harsh, frozen desolation and the unworldly city (and its terrible inhabitants) they find hidden in the mountains.
The storytelling is straightforward, alternating between the two teams as they skim across the icy wastes (except for a few panels when Nemoâ€™s team are caught up in non-linear temporal distortions and weâ€™re flicked back and forth, as disorientated as they), and echoes much of Lovecraftâ€™s original. As with the previous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century: 2009, there are fewer references to pick up on â€“ though thereâ€™s a cheeky nod towards the enduring mystery at the centre of the Citizen Kane movie on the final page. The volume is completed by a society columnistâ€™s jaunty reportage on the impending nuptials between Janniâ€™s daughter, Hira, and Armand Robur. A wedding of the air and sea (a hint of something to come, perhaps?).
Although itâ€™s a long way from the wild invention of the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, Heart of Ice is still a fun and clever read; and if Moore is showing signs of fatigue, Oâ€™Neillâ€™s art is better than ever.
Just be warned: â€œIt isnâ€™t a penguin.â€