27 November 2009

Alan Moore's Lost Treasures - #5 in a 6 Part Limited Series

“Madame October”
“Madame October” originally appeared in issue #16 of Negative Burn published by Caliber Comics. The “song” was part of a recurring series of poems and short verses that were featured in the anthology and referred to generally as “Alan Moore’s Songbook.” This particular poem, which features spot illustrations by Strangers in Paradise artist, Terry Moore, was also included in the Best of Negative Burn Year Two collection.

The poem recounts the tale of two French men, Albert and Rene, both lovers betrayed by the same woman known only as “Madame October,” conspiring to murder a third, unknown man who they suspect has stolen their lover’s affection. Compared to Moore’s body of work, this story is slight; there are not a lot of character and plot developments, per se.

But once again, Moore’s prose in this song has the elegance and beauty of spun silk. With just a few words, Moore’s lyrics conjure stunningly vivid mental images. Consider the opening stanza which sets the scene as we are introduced to Albert and Rene, the two protagonists, conspiring together in a smoky French café:

“Albert and Rene, like a poison cruet set,
Sit perched on chrome stools,
In the Gaulois bar.
From the jukebox,
Piaf tells Manuel not to go there,
And out in the streets,
Where the pug-dog faced cars
Sound their horns,
There are soldiers and girls by the Seine,
And gendarmes, in wet midnight capes,
Look away when they kiss.
Garlic breeze haunts the mews,
And you’d swear nothing bad ever happened
On nights such as this.”

While the poem doesn’t quite adhere to a strict iambic pentameter, there is definitely a rhyme scheme in place. But the tempo is disjointed, and the musical tone of the words is hard to hear. Nevertheless, Moore is on his game in this short piece. The meandering rhythm of the poem fits its mysterious, drunken subject matter, as if the words, like the two heroes, are staggering drunkenly down a narrow cobbled alleyway toward an inevitable, tragic mistake.

Terry Moore’s five richly detailed spot illustrations are gorgeous, enhancing the dramatic elements of Moore’s poem without overshadowing its lyrics. The drawing of the cobbled Parisian alleyway where the crime takes place is particularly beautiful and captures both the romance and menace of the accompanying prose.

But Moore not only contributed illustrations, he also designed the elegant page borders which frame Moore’s words in a rich shroud of looping fabric and autumn leaves, brambly trees and arching gates. Even “Madame October” herself lurks in the margins, mysterious and seductive, casting a ghostly shadow across the unfolding drama. Rather than carrying any particular storytelling responsibilities, the design is strictly decorative; yet, like a theatrical backdrop, its presence is invaluable in heightening the erotic tension of the of the underlying mystery.

The song concludes with a clever Roald Dahl-like twist-in-the-tale which imposes a painful sense of irony on the characters’ actions. But it is Moore’s masterfully woven language that makes “Madame October” memorable. The writer’s ability to conjure specific and emotionally wrought images from such an economy of carefully arranged words is a skill that never fails to amaze.

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Blogger Ahimaaz Rajesh said...

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February 3, 2010 3:30 PM  

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