March 24th, 2011

half shadow

Review: Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Lost Girls. Written by Alan Moore. Art by Melinda Gebbie. Top Shelf Productions. Three-volume edition, 2006; Single-volume edition, 2009.

Reviewed by Gayle C. Straun

Alan Moore has almost single-handedly shaped the way modern comics are now done. Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are probably his most noteworthy creations, and Lost Girls exhibits the same formalism and attention to detail that we have come to expect from this author. As with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore borrows characters from different literary works and runs them through an adventure, though in this case the characters all come from children’s books and the adventure is pornographic in the extreme.

The basic story is thus: Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan all happen to meet at the Hotel Himmelgarten on the Austrian border in the days before World War I. The three are all grown up now, with Alice being a slender, gray-hair spinster, Wendy a properly married woman, and Dorothy a more girlish adult, though one who has left Kansas far behind. For much of the work, the women engage in a lesbian three-way as they recount to each other the stories of their sexual awakenings, constituting in many ways Freudian reconstructions of the familiar childhood stories. (Captain Cook, for example, is a crippled old man who has sex with children in order to pretend that the clock isn’t ticking down on his life.) While the shadow of imminent war lingers over the world, the hotel becomes an island of enchantment where the women unpack a host of childhood secrets about sex and society.

It’s all very cleverly written—structured with infinite patience and imbued with literary allusions throughout—while the art by Melinda Gebbie creates rich shades of dream and memory and fantasy that serve as the perfect complement to the plot. However, Lost Girls can be a test of endurance at times, especially latter third, which recounts a whole series of incestuous affairs between sisters and brothers, parents and children, some engaged in willingly and some not so much. Of course, Moore has a point he’s making. The manager of the hotel, after reading a story of a familial foursome, says, “You see, if this were real, it would be horrible. Children raped by their trusted parents. Horrible. But these are fictions. They are uncontaminated by effect and consequence.” When the manager then says, “I, of course, am real, and since Helena, who I just fucked, is only thirteen, I am very guilty,” the reader is in on the irony.

Moore has publicly taken issue with our societal neuroses on regarding sex, noting that Denmark, being famed for the availability of pornography and prostitution, has a very low instance of child sexual abuse. At the end of the book, as the three women are preparing to leave the hotel, Alice says of the imminent war, “I’m afraid lots of boys will be dying in the mud when they should be fucking in bed,” adding that war destroys “All the art and architecture, the fields of flowers and young people’s dreams… All the imagination.”

Some fictions are literary, such as this very book, while others are political, such as the ostensibly honorable reasons for waging a war. Only madmen, Moore tells us, mistake fictions for reality. At the heart of the soldier’s willingness to destroy a city’s cultural heritage and the fundamentalist’s desire to ban books lies the same madness, the same insane war against fictions believed real.

Mirrored from Circlet Press: Welcome to Circlet 2.0.