The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,
Vol. III: Chapter II: Century 1969

by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill (Top Shelf, 2013)

Chapter Two of Moore and O'Neill's now 12-year epic is set in swinging London amid the psychedelic haze of the late 1960s. The immortal team of Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain and Orlando, who have overturned world-domination plots hatched by the likes of Dracula, Professor Moriarity and Fu Manchu -- as well as a rather earnest Martian invasion -- now turns their talents to a group of black magicians vying for control of London's ruthless underworld.

The "anything goes" cultural milieu is a perfect camouflage for the efforts of an elite cadre of warlocks to plan their takeover. The desperation and alienation of so many disaffected people is a rather fruitful soil in which to carry on in plain sight, either as part of the background or something new and exciting to delve into. Sneaking in a demon, hell-bent on taking over the world, in the guise of a rock star would be easy as pie.

The team isn't in the best shape. Mina, approaching her first century, is already tired of it. The gender-bending Orlando, coming to the end of his/her third millennia, is bored beyond belief, and Alan Quartermain is unmotivated after non-stop battles with evil world conquerors. They are struggling to fit in with the times, which has severely challenged Mina's and Alan's Victorian London sensibilities, and with their reduced ranks as a team. This reflects the somewhat thin nature of the plot, which has to do with a foe named Oliver Haddo and his deranged plan to take over the world. It's the darkest League story yet and ends on a depressing note that still makes you yearn for the final chapter, if only to see how things will eventually turn out in Chapter Three. Still, the story isn't as cluttered as previous segments, so it's quite enjoyable, if not as engaging as the earlier adventures.

Alan Moore is one of the most consummate world builders in the comic book world. The sheer density of the illustrations makes every panel both a work of art and a lot to pick apart. Although this story is shorter than previous installments, it's packed end to end with so many cultural references that you feel super-smart just for being able to name a few. The admirably meticulous craftsmanship is beautiful to look at, while brimming with the unrestrained sexuality of the times. Although it sometimes seems as if the whole point of the series is to exist as an outlet for Moore's political beliefs, from anti-imperialism to pornography as art, it's still intelligent, elegant and fun to wade through.

review by
Mary Harvey

21 September 2013

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