The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The great time I had with Neil Gaiman-penned comics got me to try other stuff in the genre. And The League was pretty high on my list for 2 reasons: Alan Moore (if even the comic book neophyte that I am knows about him there must be something) and the movie. Don’t get me wrong – the movie was crap – but the idea intrigued me then, as it did now: gathering up a series of known characters from classic works of fiction and combining their abilities – it’s like The Avengers, only… more interesting.
In this first volume we have Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, Dr. Jekyll and Hawley Griffin, plus prof. Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes (and others). It’s a pretty promising bunch – even if I have to shamefully admit that this was my first literary encounter with about half these characters. Coming off Sandman though, the story itself is a bit disappointing because it’s so formulaic (the band is assembled, they fight off the bad guy, except that it turns out they were brought in under false pretenses, so they turn their skills against their initial employer and save the day) – fun, but not the kind of fun you can really sink your teeth in. I guess the fact that my favorite bits were the tiny introductions before each chapter, written in a turn-of-the-century style, says a lot about my general involvement in the story. But how can you not love stuff like this:
Tremble dearest reader, at the horrid spectacle of Johnny Chinaman, armed with the mighty weapons of our new Electric Age and bent on turning them against our island home! Can any force prevail against this terrible affront? Do not fail to reserve the next edition of out illustrated chap-book and thus learn the outcome of this rousing and invigorating narrative!
The story at the end of the volume features Allan Quatermain and a host of new and old characters – and it’s about as enjoyable the rest of the book (at least the bit I read, I didn’t really have book-time this week and now I realize I’m lacking the motivation to finish it). What I really disliked about it is the adjective onslaught – like “Wuthering zephyrs combed the dead man’s iron grey locks and set his long tan coat to flap like a sailcloth“; and this is an example picked completely at random, most sentences are made of the same stuff. It’s tiring and overcrowded – but so far I can’t tell if it’s a mark of Alan Moore’s style, or simply the particular way in which he chose drive this tale. I certainly hope it’s the latter, because I’m very much looking forward to V for Vendetta and I wouldn’t like to be let down. As for the next volumes of The League…I’ll think about whether I’m in the mood for more or not.