Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: CENTURY #2


WRITER: Alan Moore
ARTIST: Kevin O’Neill
COLORIST: Ben Dimagmaliw
LETTERER: Todd Klein
ISBN: 978-1-86166-162-6; paperback
80pp, Color, $9.95 U.S., £7.99 GBP

Even in a counter-culture underground of mystical and medicated flower children, there is a sense of loneliness. It is as if expressions of personal freedom and use of drugs to gain a personal high are really about trying to connect with other individuals in a way that is simultaneously superficial and deeply intimate. Even Oliver Haddo’s body hopping is an attempt to stave off that ultimate solo journey – death. Anyway…

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century is the third series starring Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s Victorian superheroes, who are now a new team in a new century. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #2 “1969” is the second graphic novel in the most recent story arc (which began with Century #1 “1910”). It finds the new League: Mina Murray, the reincarnated Allan Quatermain, and eternal warrior Orlando still trying to stop the creation of an antichrist called the Moonchild.

Chapter 2: Paint It Black takes place in 1969 (about 60 years after the League’s last adventure) and is set in the psychedelic daze of Swinging London during 1969, where Tadukic Acid Diethylamide 26 is the drug of choice. The counter-culture fun pauses for just a moment when rock musician, Basil Thomas, is murdered by men in black robes. Vince Dakin, a mob boss close to Thomas, hires contract killer, Jack Carter, to learn the identity of the person who ordered the murder and to in turn kill that individual.

Meanwhile, the Blazing World sends the League to investigate Thomas’ murder, especially as it may be related to the activities of the occultist, Oliver Haddo, who is trying to create the Moonchild. But isn’t Haddo supposed to be dead? Still adjusting to the 20th century and struggling with the accumulated weight of their endless lives, Mina, Allan, and Orlando navigate the perilous rapids of London's hippy and criminal subculture, while Haddo plots his next incarnation.

While I marvel at the brilliance of his darker works like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, I prefer Alan Moore’s more surreal and slyly humrous comics, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being one of them. It is obvious that moving LoEG to Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics (in the U.K.) has liberated Moore. Century: 1969 is bawdy and vulgar without being obnoxious. It is madly inventive and highly imaginative without being inaccessible to readers who may not get all the cultural and pop culture references.

The move to a new publisher (from DC Comics, which was never the right publisher for this material) has also done wonders for artist Kevin O’Neill, who is every bit as important to the League as Moore is. O’Neill graphical storytelling and art are pictures as poetry. Dream sequences, flashbacks, alternate universes, swinging London, bizarre manifestations of human flesh, etc.: there isn’t anything O’Neill can’t draw. He visualizes Moore’s trippy story as both a trippy graphic novel and an enthralling, engaging story.

Century #2 is actually an improvement over Century #1, as the former is surreal rather than merely odd, as “1910” was with its bizarre musical sequences. I’m happy to say that Moore and O’Neill are still at the top of their LoEG game.




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