There are spoilers for Neonomicon #3 below.
Neonomicon#3 leads off with an FBI interview as the crew tries to find their missing two agents, Brears and Lamper. And we get a peek into the double-layer that seems to be thematic in this series now.
There are layers to reality in Neonomicon. In the prequel Courtyard we saw previous scenes reflected in paintings and windows, as well as the building of a ceiling to the world. In issue 1 an antagonist escapes through the sewers/gutters of the comic and appears as a two dimensional painting image. Issue 2 found us move from the world above to the world below – and it's here that much of the comic is set in the grid panels of one large swimming room, without anything to bother the dimensions, apart from agent Brears and the monster. But we see the two layers immediately as the Lovecraftian language is read out, angered and panicked expressions of those in the dark, calmness in the light.
And a journey down the cellars in the dark, accompanied by the Lovecraft language takes us to the scene where a fish monster has been raping Agent Brears for three days.
There's been a lot of rape in comics of late. From Infinite Crisis, to Arsenal to, well, pretty much every comic Mark Millar writes these days. It's used as a way to give an extra threat, to make the villain seem more dastardly, a reason to enact revenge, and even a comedy punishment if it's male-on-male.
In Neonomicon #3, there is a lot of rape. The FBI Agent introduced in previous issues who has sought treatment for her sex-addiction, is repeatedly raped by a twelve foot fish monster, who's head and torso resemble a penis in and of themselves, just one with spines and spikes, seemingly designed by a mix of HR Giger and Art Adams.
The resemblance is clearly intentional, and indeed the creatures whole demeanor changes depending on his sexual desires.
But here there isn't evil intent behind the rape. It is seen as nothing more than the equivalent of feeding for the monster, a necessary act. After all it is nothing more than a penis. This is a very different moral outlook and its one that the agent has to recognise and try and deal with. It's a torture more than anything, and dealt with in the manner of Jack Bauer on 245, to be resisted but ultimately to be dealt with and pushed through to the other side.
It's very very icky. And the character's history of sex addiction does that, there's a feeling that maybe this experience isn't as bad for her – although this is absolutely contradicted in her terror and pain.
But ultimately it's an obstacle to overcome, to survive, to be dealt with there and then, without any side effects aside from pain. It's hard for any charges for misogyny to stick, when the protagonist is as complex and able as she is. We see the escape both mentally via dream into a new reality touched on by ours, and then physically, the monster breaking the fourth wall rather literally before taking Brears away, in time for his dhurr-nurrh.
There also seems to be some division here from the antagonists. We assumed they were all part of the same movement, but we're shown they're not. Just as there are not just two layers to reality, there are not two groups opposed to each other here, there is a complexity.
Neonomicon #3 does not make for pleasant reading – that's not unusual at Avatar. But unlike Jacen's previous book Crossed, Neonomicon has many more crevices of character, meaning and symbolism to get lost in. The only question is as to whether you will dive in.
Neonomicon #3 ships today in the US and tomorrow in the UK. A preview can be read here.
UPDATE: Thank you in the comments for the realistaion that the light in the FBI interview room, if seen two dimensionally, is the Eye from the Neonomicon logo. Of course it is.