It still surprises me what an enjoyable adventure story Alan Moore wrote in the initial volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Allow me to qualify that statement.
I think Moore is a tremendous writer--undoubtedly one of the pillars of the industry. However, as often as Iíve appreciated his craft, Iíve just as likely been left cold by the finished product. So much of his career is known for creating new contexts for existing characters and archetypes, but there were times when I felt as though I was reading an exceedingly clever exercise and not a thrilling work of fiction.
Here is the most direct comparison: While the more recent Black Dossier is an infinitely self-referential story about stories, this first volume in the League series is a pleasurable story in and of itself, transforming the existing characters less self-consciously than in other works by Moore.
The opening chapters of volume one see Mina Murray (formerly Mina Harker) recruiting a team of criminals and scoundrels--pirate Captain Nemo, sex fiend/Invisible Man Hawley Griffin, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and downtrodden explorer Allan Quatermain. Thereís meanness and a grinding together in the opening chapters as this team is assembled and learns about their mission for the mysterious ďM.Ē Yet itís balanced expertly by Mooreís droll use of humor--particularly in Minaís droll unflappability in the face of increasingly strange circumstances.
The story leads to a confrontation below (and later above) the streets of London, and it delves into the fictional origins of British military intelligence. While the traditional ending for this type of story is a group of heroes with a grudging respect for one another, Moore maintains an element of tension. These are people who do not trust one another. At least two of them (Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man) are unrepentant killers, and itís only a matter of time before either one visits harm upon the rest of the team.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One is an excellent adventure story that resists being overly-referential, itís a playful, exciting, and exacting outing by Moore and Kevin OíNeill--which reminds me, Iíve been remiss in mentioning the art.
OíNeill creates pages that are both evocative of turn-of-the-century comics and very modern. There is a good deal of violence and gore, but it at no point feels exploitive or overdone--just well-done.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at Monster In Your Veins
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