Monday, 29 December 2008

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moor & Kevin O'Neill

It is interesting to chart the development of an idea over the three volumes of this work. In the first volume we are presented with an intriguing conceit, namely that there was a group of adventurers recruited by British Intelligence which operated at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Drawn from the ranks of fiction they, of course, inhabit a fictional/alternative world, where the events in the books from which they are drawn actually took place.

Moore develops this idea inventively and makes wonderful use of characters and situations familiar to many, yet superbly melded into a unique vision. And whereas the characters are taken from books that persons of a certain age (ahem) would have read in their childhood, Moore is not afraid to allow these adult characters to have adult lives.

The first volume contains an extended prose piece by Alan Moore, recounting an adventure of Allan Quatermain that prefigures the second volume of adventures. Perhaps lacking the same impact as the first series/volume, the second set of adventures are set directly after the first at the time of the Martian invasion as imagined by H G Wells. The plot is again intriguing (if a little thin) and we learn a great deal more about the League and the fact that it is not the first of its kind. For me, however, it is ‘The New Traveller’s Almanac’ that makes this second volume. It gathers together reports of travels around the world made by various League members. Every fictional realm (ancient and modern) seems to have been drawn into this wonderful piece of work. Many are obscure and it is great fun trying to work out the references without resorting to the computer.

The third volume was compiled as a book (rather than released as a series of comics before being collected). This brings the tale up to date, set as it is in a post-1984 world that has a great deal in common with V For Vendetta. In this, Murray and Quatermain steal a dossier that contains fragmentary evidence of the earlier Leagues. Their adventures are interspersed with ‘reproductions’ of these fragments. Altogether a highly entertaining and worthy final volume to the series, bringing us a character that made me shudder even more than Moreau’s version of Rupert Bear.