Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: CENTURY #1


WRITER: Alan Moore
ARTIST: Kevin O’Neill
COLORIST: Ben Dimagmaliw
LETTERER: Todd Klein
ISBN: 978-1-60309-000-1; paperback
80pp, Color, $7.95

Published in May 2009, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century #1 (“1910”) is the opening book in the latest story arc starring The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Created by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill, the League is composed of Victorian superheroes (who are also Victorian literary characters). Century places a new league in a new century, as it takes on an occult plot to create an antichrist. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen also has a new lease on life with new publishers, Top Shelf Productions in North America and Knockabout Comics in the United Kingdom.

Century finds what remains of the League in the brave new world of the 20th century. Chapter 1, “What Keeps Mankind Alive,” is set in 1910 London, twelve years after the failed Martian invasion (depicted in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2). The story opens in the bowels of the British Museum where the sleep of the ghost-finder Thomas Carnacki is troubled by dreams which reveal the conspiracy of a shadowy cult.

As Britain prepares for the coronation of King George V, the cult, apparently led by the supposedly dead Oliver Haddo, is attempting to create something called a “Moonchild.” Far away on his South Atlantic base, Captain Nemo is dying, but his daughter, Janni, has rejected her inheritance and heads for London. Meanwhile, London’s most notorious serial (MacHeath or Mack the Knife) has also returned to ply his grisly trade on the London dockside.

Working for Mycroft Holmes’ British Intelligence, Mina Murray leads a new League, which includes the rejuvenated Allan Quatermain (who pretends to be Allan Quatermain, Jr.), the reformed thief Anthony Raffles, the eternal warrior Orlando (who can be male or female and claims that the sword he carries is Excalibur), and Carnacki. As Murray and the League rush to discover if there is indeed a conspiracy, ominous signs thrive and brutal forces converge on the excited city. And characters break out in song!

It’s probably been about eight years since I’ve read the original League miniseries, and I didn’t read the second series. I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading the first book of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century as much if not more than I did the very first issue of the original series. What I enjoyed about Moore’s work here is how he treats each panel as an opportunity to create wonderful dialogue. More than just advancing the plot or establishing characters, the dialogue colors this peculiar series and gives it a wonderfully intoxicating flavor. I don’t know how else to say this: with every word balloon I read, I felt this story engaging my senses and coming alive in my mind. Hell, I even enjoyed the scenes in which the characters sang.

I’ve been a fan of Kevin O’Neill’s art since I first encountered him back in the mid-1980s, and I was crazy about Marshal Law. I liked his work in the original League series, but wasn’t crazy about it. I still love how O’Neill visualizes Moore’s eccentricities. Like Moore’s vivacious dialogue, O’Neill’s beautiful art doesn’t merely visualize a world; it brings that world to life. He captures the personalities of the characters by utilizing every bit of them – facial features and expressions, costumes, posture, physicality, etc.

Moore and O’Neill are a match made in comic book heaven.



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