The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is probably best known for the horrible, career ending movie that starred Sir Sean Connery in his last major motion picture. The movie is a disjointed mess and takes almost nothing from the source material other than the characters’ names.
The comic, on the other hand, is an interesting romp with an entire world built around it. The main concept of the comic is that many literary fiction characters are actually real characters that have retained their otherworldly abilities. They come together as a crime-solving troupe, but, as they are human, they retain all of the issues they have interacting with one another and overcoming being better than an average human.
Written by Alan Moore (of Watchmen and various other comics fame) the story follows Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll, and Hawley Griffin from 1898 to 2009 solving crimes with antagonists from literary history. These include Fu Manchu, Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, and even the aliens from The War of the Worlds.
Characters and Writer
The protagonists are often seen as interesting, but not entirely bad, in modern culture. Moore is not that type of writer, and each of the “heroes” in this comic are, for lack better phrasing, miserable fucking bastards. Each of them exploits their myriad abilities in exactly the worst ways possible — murdering, drug using, and raping — because there is no one that can truly stop them. They get a completely free pass on this, because when aliens come from Mars and threaten to liquidate the entire human race you have to let the superhuman characters handle it.
There is quite a bit of death in this comic and it is dished out to the good and bad alike. The strange thing is I never really connected with the good guys because they were all pretty deplorable people in their own right.
The art is done really solidly throughout. There is only one artist from start to finish, so it is very cohesive. Those that like steampunk flair will adore this, as the whole span of time from 1898 to present day has a decidedly steampunk feel. The comic consistently feels like a viewing of the imagination of someone reading a book, which is precisely how it should feel. The characters are all very unique and it feels like you are viewing a real alternate timeline where pen and paper make reality come to life.
Moore is a world builder. He has done this with Watchmen and here he has managed to do the same thing. While The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t long per se, Moore includes so much side text and so many appendices from the world that you never really feel lost. These are necessary reads to get the full effect of the world these characters reside in and they are entertaining in their own right. Each character is also consistent throughout the story, never suddenly becoming more than they were like many superhero novels do. Once insane, always insane, and that helps engross even more.
Worth the read and time to complete?
Kinda??? I read this in its entirety in about two weeks and I did enjoy it quite a bit, yet it is hard reading something with a bunch of people you don’t entirely like. The main characters are Allan Quartermain and Mina Harker and they’re relatively interesting, but their cohorts were far more intense and crazy which made me sad when they departed from the story (These departures are amazing though).
Brent Hopkins considers himself jack-o-all-trades and a great listener. Chat with him about his articles or anything in general at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images: Litreactor and Indiewire.