I’ve been a fan of Alan Moore’s work since he started writing Swamp Thing for DC back in 1984. I’ve always marveled at his ability to tell tales on multiple levels. His work on Watchman, V for Vendetta, his Superman stories “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” and “For The Man Who Has Everything”, his short DC stories – especially his Green Lantern work –, Miracleman, and his ABC work was riveting to me. But my favorite work of his is the League of Extraordinary Gentleman books.
To say I’m amazed at the depth of writing and artistry that goes into these books is an understatement. The idea of tying literary characters together in a single universe isn’t a totally new concept. Phillip Jose Farmer and his Wold Newton universe theories were the first I was aware of to explore these ideas. Those works were then further expanded on by Win Scott Eckert and other scholars on the website http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm . But Moore took it one step further and actually had the characters interact in a longer story form. The Easter eggs that both Moore and artist extraordinaire Kevin O’Neill include per panel makes the League books dense reading, so much so that annotations by Jess Nevins and others were almost required reading to get the full enjoyment out of the reading. (Jess’s notations for the league books can be found at http://www.enjolrasworld.com/Jess%20Nevins/League%20of%20Extraordinary%20Gentlemen/LoEG%20index.htm )
Now the second book of the Century mini-series is out. The story takes place in 1969 and has League members Mina Murray, Allen Quartermain and Orlando trying to stop Oliver Haddo’s creation of the Anti Christ. My first problem with this story is that 3 members of the League doesn’t seem like much of a league to me. I kept hoping some other 1960s characters would be introduced to provide a current point of view, but none were. Fictional allegories to the Rolling Stones were appreciated as was a nod to an American book that reflected the plot. The art was still top notch and while the writing is still better than most comics, it’s lacking access. This trend started in Moore’s previous two League books – “Century 1: 1910” and “Black Dossier”. There are references being made that even after reading the annotations I didn’t understand or appreciate. It’s like being given a map of destinations that’s missing direction. The first two League books looked at literary characters that were better known worldwide. The latest edition lacks that familiarity and I think the books suffers from it. I can’t imagine a newer reader picking this book up as a standalone title and being able to understand it. I still firmly believe in Moore’s ability to tell a tale, but he really seems to be slipping in this regard. LEOG is still clever and well written, but Moore has raised the bar so high it’s discouraging to see anything less than that.
That said, I’ll pick up the next installment as I have faith that Alan can bring the series to a satisfying end.
3.5 out of 5 Stars.