Reviews: The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Sigh... I have to confess something to you, tropers: I don't like this.

Yes, you heard that right: I didn't like this. Not only the everywhere-hated movie adaptation which I didn't watch, but the original comic by Alan Moore.

The graphics are simply ugly; the sex scenes are pure Fan Disservice; the plot might be intricated, but has one big problem: The Black And Gray Morality is so close to Black And Black Morality that Darkness Induced Audience Apathy claimed me.

And the main strength of the comic (at least, as others are saying), the millions of Shout Outs to Victorian literature? Meh. Maybe looking for hints in the panels would be more fun if the art wasn't so ugly, and the characters so revulsing, which makes looking for them like wading through shit. Even so, it feels like a cheap shtick: Hey look, Alice starved because her body's mirror-reversed! (Couldn't she have fixed that by returning to the Looking Glass world?) Hey look, Pollyanna gets raped! — The phrase of "canon rape" rarely was as appropriate as here, indeed. Easter Eggs? If those eggs were filled with blood, razors or something even more unpleasant, then yes.

No - if there is a lesson to learn from LOEG, it's that few Fan Fics are good, even more so if we're talking about crossovers. No matter who writes them.

Volume I:

I recently read LXG for the first time, and I just don't really see the appeal. It's unique in the scale of its literary crossover, but that seems to the cause of its problems: certain characters just don't belong here.

I'm not intimately familiar with the original works of most of the League, but I know Captain Nemo, and this is Character Derailment, at best. He would never aid the British government, and the reasoning provided is flimsy. Apparently, the threat of cavorite-powered bombers poses a threat to him as well as Britain...except it doesn't, he's got the entire ocean to work with, and being able to effortlessly disappear is the whole point of the Nautilus. "But thirty feet below the surface, their power ceases, their influence fades, and their dominion vanishes". No one can reach him, he has no stake in this fight. And now he's apparently a misogynist, and hates Muslims. And instead of cutting all cultural ties, a major aspect of his character, he sports a clear Indian theme. Instead of showing remorse for the lives he takes as a (to him) necessary evil to fight imperialism, now he's a ruthless murderer who wants everyone in Britain dead. Really, he'd have been a better villain than Moriarty.

And Murray. I can't find any good reason for her being the leader. I don't dislike her, but how is she qualified, exactly? She takes everything in stride, but doesn't seem to bring anything to the table. She's mostly just the target of the era's sexism as a woman in a position in power, but why is she in that position? And speaking of that, is there a reason every woman in the story suffers a rape attempt or is sexualized? I know Moore wanted to highlight the misogyny of the time, but he doesn't actually challenge it. Griffin, a serial rapist, is never called out on his actions, nor is anyone else.

So while the story is interesting, and it still has it's high points, I don't think the characters' roles and motivations were thought through very well.

League of His Own...

Alan Moore is a genius of a kind that is very rare and scarce. We are all fortunate that he's still alive and writing in these times. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a strange beast, unlike anything done before in comics though it has a lot of the same concerns as Kurtzman's MAD and the biographies in Spiegelman and Griffith's Arcade, Moore's two favorite magazines of all time. It takes some chutzpah for an English artist to retake English culture from James Bond and Harry Potter and reclaim popular culture as a whole, which Moore says was mostly an English invention.

I think the main thing about League is how it dramatizes concepts in literary criticism and theory. It's one thing to read up on semiotics and another to see it in comics, with all the signs and acquired meanings separated and identified as distinct. This is Moore's great achievement. My favorite volume so far is Century, especially 1910 and 1969, 2009 is a weak conclusion but that's by intention and it works beautifully. The art by Kevin O'Neill is some of the richest in contemporary comics, especially in its capacity to make the ugly beautiful and vice versa. I hope there are more League books, I for one want to see Moore give us a solo Don Quixote adventure...