Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Alan Moore and Kevin o'Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1910 (Knockabout 2009)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 3 is upon us, and with it, Alan Moore’s propensity for Victorian filth and mind-expanding concepts. This time, The League is more ambitious, and dare I say it, purposely a fuck you to anyone who might consider trying to film it, after all film versions of his work have ended up ruining or only hinting at the genius in the original source material. Volume 3 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is called Century officially and... spans... a century. Expansive. Gone are most of the characters we refamiliarised ourselves with (the original two volumes concerned literary characters from Victorian novels reimagined as a type of antequated MI5) and instead we are faced with brutal serial killers, songs and the occult. So prevalent are songs and rhymes in this first volume (with parts two and three due next year and the year after) that if it were filmed, it would take the place of a grotesque carnival musical, with filthy shanties and bawdy limericks pricking the surfaces of naked tortured skin. We catch up with Wilhemina Murray, the vampiric bride of Dracula, immortal and having outlived most of her original League, now with generation 2, comprising of Thomas Carnacki, a ghost detective, Quartermain’s son and Orlando a mysterious figure in possession of Excalibur. Carnacki’s visions lead him to murderous Armageddon in the East End and the occult who are trying to birth a moonchild. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo of the Nautilus dies, leaving his beloved submarine to his estranged daughter, absconded to England to work in a bordello by the docks. The book is self-contained and while it takes a while to get going, promises an interesting take on this century. Themes abound in volume 1 of the power of vice and how do-gooders trying to quell human desire for vice and virtueless violence are undoing nature’s own commands, and evil will out. Moore seems to be predicting the death of the century and along with it, the death of the human race. The violence is grotesque and bloody, the pirates that crew the Nautilus are ruthless and cunning. And the new League is still trying to find its feet. Volume 2 takes place in 1969 and concerns the hippy movement and volume 3 will bring us up to date in 2009, promising appearances from Jack Bauer, characters from the West Wing, and bizarrely, Armando Iannucci’s surreal retro-future comedy show, Time Trumpet. Definitely unfilmable then. But then after the disaster of the last attempt to commit The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a sombre and disgusting mediation on the human condition as told by literary figures in Victorian times, into cartoonish celluloid, I doubt anyone’ll be coming near this 100year spanning tome with hardly any ‘stars’ or recurring characters through each volume. Whatever happens, Moore has ensured he won’t be cursing any more film versions of his babies anytime soon. In the meantime, this is essential for any comic book reader and for any literary types who want to succumb to the filth and fury of 1910, as told by modern times’ most famous magus of wit and invention, Alan Moore.

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