LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (VOL III): CENTURY #1 – 1910 (Top Shelf) By Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Alan Moore returns with the latest volume of LOEG. For the uniniated – or those who came across LOEG via the truly risible film adaptation – LOEG is Alan Moore’s tribute to the literary heroes of the 19th century. OR if you’re cynical enough, an attempt at a ‘superhero’ grouping featuring recognisable public domain characters.

For the first two volumes, LOEG featured Mina Harker (Dracula), Allan Quartermain (King Solomon’s Mines), Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man) and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde (well, y’know) and this Justice League of Victorian England was pitted against Fu Manchu and Professor Moriaty (Sherlock Holmes) and Martian invaders (from War of the Worlds).

For the third volume, published now by the indie Top Shelf, Moore revealed in a recent interview with Newasrama that “Well, there are other ways of doing drama. There are other approaches to drama other than keeping up a relentless pace and momentum to everything.” So, rather than relying totally on literary inventions, Moore has based 1910 on the Threepenny Opera, the Brecht-Weill musical (that was first performed in 1928, go figure).

You might say that Century features LOEG: The Next Generation, as only Harker and the now eternally youthful Quartermain remain and are joined by the slightly less prominent literary creations viz. Thomas Carnacki (Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder), Orlando (Orlando: A Biography) and AJ Raffles (The Amateur Cracksman). Now only that but Century also introduces Janni, Captain Nemo’s daughter. Caught up yet?

The villains of the piece (so to speak) is Aleister Crowley – represented by various analogues viz Oliver Haddo, Karswell, Dr. Trelawney, Adrian Marcato and Hjalmar Poelzig, who are all part of a secret society intent (hellbent?) on bringing about the end of the world (what else?) by summoning the Moonchild.

I know. All these literary references are pretty heavy going and intriguing and all that BUT what about the freaking story, you ask. Well, let’s just say that if you consider that the first two volumes were summer blockbusters then volume III is definitely an arthouse flick with deliberate arty touches that will take time (and effort) to absorb and contemplate.

To be honest, part of me was screaming – “where’s the beef” – as the story plodded along. Yes, its the first installment and these can be ponderous in setting out the overall plotline and there’s a general sense of foreboding throughout although you never think that – apart from Janni – any of the characters are in peril.

So yes, it’s extremely clever but bearing in mind Moore’s intent, it stands to reason that 1910 would lack conventional excitement as it reflects a ‘slower’ (by our hyperactive times) storytelling era. Me? I’m going back to 1910 to savour its delights slowly and wait in anticpation for the second and third installments, 1969 and 2009, respectively.

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