The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill
(America's Best, 2000)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an utterly delightful book. In it, writer Alan Moore assembles a superhero team of a completely different sort, drawing on British literary figures of the late 1800s. Writing in a style reminiscent of that era, Moore has crafted a superb story that stands with the classics of adventure, science fiction and a bit of the grotesque.

Key figures include Captain Nemo, the arrogant, self-absorbed commander of Jules Verne's Nautilus; Allan Quatermain, the romantic hero created by H. Rider Haggard, now a morphine addict self-exiled in Cairo; Hawley Griffin, the antihero from H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, now hiding and taking his pleasure in an all-girls' school; and Robert Louis Stevenson's Henry Jekyll, whose apparent suicide was a cover so he could flee to Paris, along with his brutal, apish alter-ego, Edward Hyde.

The characters are gathered by the steadfast and proper Wilhelmina Murray (formerly Mina Harker, the sought-after bride from Bram Stoker's Dracula), who works under orders of Campion Bond, a Secret Service agent likewise controlled by the mysterious M, believed by Miss Murray to be the elusive Mycroft Holmes (the deceased Sherlock's older, smarter brother). There are also brief appearances by and mentions of the likes of C. Auguste Dupin, from Edgar Allan Poe's "Murder in the Rue Morgue," Inspector Dick Donovan, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the Artful Dodger, Moby Dick's Ishmael and the astronomer Lavelle from War of the Worlds, plus various references from Rosa Coote's erotica. The list goes on and on, as Moore piles on subtle and unsubtle references to literary characters; to list them all would consume too much time and space!

Some people might be completely lost after reading pages where the only text is dialogue in Arabic, Chinese or French -- but the story is plain for all to see, brought to life through the art of Kevin O'Neill, whose work supercedes the language barrier and evokes turn-of-the-century thrills and chills. Ben Dimagmaliw is a perfect match, employing a muted palate in his coloration.

For a taste of something different on the comics market, try The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's another coup from the brilliant mind of Alan Moore!

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 11 October 2002

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