Saturday, September 10, 2011

Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century 1969" (Steak Knives)

Alan Moore is a master.  'Watchmen' should be very familiar to a wide audience for its recent and faithful film adaptation.  To a lesser extent, this is also true for 'V for Vendetta' and 'From Hell.' It's tragic that the film adaptation of 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (TLOEG) was so abysmally poor, because it's some of his greatest work.

The collected Volumes I & II of TLOEG were early reads for me as I re-discovered graphic novels as an adult a few years back (with thanks to Andrew Petrozzi and a visit to a Vancouver comic shop for re-igniting this interest).  Both are hands-down classics, IMHO.  The basic idea: bring together a bunch of characters from 19th. C. literature (Mina Murray from Dracula, Jeckyll/Hyde, The Invisible Man, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, etc.) that Moore is free to use and interpret as his creativity sees fit, given that all are part of the creative commons - no longer controlled or held by copyright holders.  His interpretation of each of these characters is robust and fascinating, as he wraps in other players and story lines from 19th C. classics of sci-fi and adventure lit (e.g. Wells' 1898 'War of the Worlds').  Again, how the film bungled this simple and winning premise is as baffling as it is unfortunate.

Vols I & II
What followed volumes I & II was the 'Black Dossier,' then 'Century: 1910,' the latter, part 1 of 3.  While it retains the roles of Mina and Alan as central characters, others have departed.  New players are introduced to match new 20th C. timelines, again drawing from notable figures in contemporary literature (e.g. Carnacki, Emma Peel, etc.).  While these lacked the full potency of Vols I &II, it was a welcome continuation and tangential direction for the story and characters.  The supporting players simply didn't have the same iconic clout, and the references/cast became too obscure to catch in many cases (this seems to be a common complaint, at least on the internetz).  I read Century:1910 upon its release in 2009.  I've been waiting impatiently for the next installment since, and Century:1969 landed in August.

I give it full credit for the story arc and now wait patiently though expectantly for Century:2009.  But...

A little more of the magic and quality seems to have eroded.  I just didn't sink as deep into this one, despite being entertained all the way through it. O'Neill's art is great, but still a thin effort in parts.  Ultimately, I think its biggest hobble is the limitation created by the 1969 setting.  While Moore has generic surrogates for the Rolling Stones and other contemporary figures, the need to 'allude to' rather than seize these characters is a new feature of the franchise.  The story suffers for it.  While you can take a character like Quartermain and turn him into a burnt out heroin punk because nobody owns a piece of him as intellectual property, it's a little more tricky to do it with characters like Tom Riddle, whose peeps might be rabidly litigious.

Again, the references/characters/plot facets were obscure or went unrecognized in several places, though catching a broad Robert Anton Wilson nod in the plot line was gratifying.

Very enjoyable all around, but it gets further and further from the Top-End Cadillac efforts of Vols I & II...

This handsome devil is Alan Moore.

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