August 21, 2003

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

So I went out and got a copy of the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen--not the novelization, but the book that collects the six comic book episodes into a single graphic novel. Ian Hamet will no doubt pleased (even as he's no doubt wondering when I'm going to get to the Nevil Shute novel he gave me. Soon, Ian! Soon!

Now, I don't read comics much. Back when I was in grad school I picked up most of the episodes of Cerebus the Aardvark, which was mostly good fun; I still have them around somewhere, though the paper was lousy and they are probably ready to fall apart. A few years ago (as long time readers will remember) I picked up the full set of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman", which I enjoyed thoroughly though it had what seemed like quite a ridiculous amount of sex and violence (especially violence). Cerebus was quite remarkably tame by comparison. Sex and violence-wise, the Gentlemen are pretty much on a par with the Sandman.

The plot is straightforward. At the behest of a rather unctuous fellow named Campion Bond, Mina Harker gathers together Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man to carry out a mission for Bond's boss, the mysterious Mr. M. Things are not as they seem, of course, and a rollicking tale ensues.

Did I like it? Well, it was OK. It wasn't the Sandman. Frankly, the Extraordinary Gentleman seemed insufficiently extraordinary; and although the premise is good fun, I came away thinking that Mr. M could have accomplished his ends much more simply with a few stout young men and a few months of training.

The artwork was pretty darned cool, though, especially the pictures of the Nautilus.

The book ends with a novella (really, a genuine words on a page story) about Allan Quatermain, in which (through the medium of a prose so purple it was almost opaque) Alan Moore has the audacity to bring together Allan Quatermain, John Carter of Mars, Randolph Carter, and H.G. Wells' time traveller in one big H.P. Lovecraft pastiche. I nearly choked when I read that Randolph Carter was John Carter's great nephew.

So, all in all, a pleasant afternoon's entertainment...but nothing life-changing.

Posted by Will Duquette at August 21, 2003 08:42 PM

Ian said:

Sex and violence are more or less staples of American comics at this point. League, apart from the (I thought very witty) nod to Victorian erotica, is comparatively subdued, I think.

It is, of course, supposed to be a light-hearted romp. Moore's life-changing work mostly came earlier, especially V for Vendetta, Watchmen (most especially Watchmen), and From Hell.

As to Nevil Shute, I've found it is rarely a good idea to rush through one of Mr. Shute's books. Take your time, I certainly won't push you. :)

Craig Clarke said:

The Carter situation sounds like the time when it was also announced that The Green Hornet (Britt Reid) was the Lone Ranger's (John Reid) grandnephew.

Ian said:

Except that Fran Striker, creator of both the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, intended the relationship, whereas I doubt Burroughs and Lovecraft would have been easy with their characters being related.

Does knowing Striker's name (and the fact that he worked at a Detroit radio station) brand me a permanent geek, or what? I mean, I don't even need to look it up, except maybe to correct the spelling.

Craig Clarke said:

And what's wrong with being a permanent geek?

I didn't know that about their having the same creator. I only knew them from the old radio shows and therefore knew nothing of their origins (in this world, not theirs).

Will Duquette said:

Regarding Nevil Shute--that's precisely why I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm waiting until I can sit down and disappear for a few hours on end.

Regarding the Carter Family, one does begin to wonder whether the Great Old Ones ever visited Mars: "I pushed aside the statuette of a cephalopod wearing the leather and metal of a Zodangan fighting man. Behind it was a dusty tome bound in the leather of a Green Man of Mars. I examined it gingerly. It was handwritten in a script I did not know, for although there is but one language on Barsoom, every city has its own manner of writing. Still I new it must be the Necronomicon of the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, brought to Barsoon in Elder Days by some unspeakable horror....."

Will Duquette said:

Gack! "Barsoon"? That should have been "Barsoom", of course. "Barsoon" sounds like what the single Yuppie says just before Happy Hour.

Craig Clarke said:

And a rimshot for you, sir: Ba-dump ksssh.