Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (part 1)
The closest comic book in genre, if not plot, to our upcoming project – “The Wardenclyffe Horror” is “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and its incredible sequels. Though I’m sure many of our readers have already familiar with this classic, I thought i would make sure everyone had the opportunity. The point of this blog post is two fold: to convince you of the greatness of this comic book and to differentiate it from the terrible movie by the same name. In this spirit, I will be discussing pertinent facts, but avoiding out and out spoilers as I would like you to read this fine work yourself, rather than take my word for its quality.
Because I do not wish to write, and I doubt that you wish to read, a post with a word count measured in the thousands rather than hundreds, I will divide this subject in to two parts. The second post will discuss Parts II (my personal favorite) and The Black Dossiers, will be written in the next few days, and I will hold off on writing anything about Century (part III) until it has been released in its entirety.
Want a taste of things to come and an introduction to one of the most interesting super hero groups around? Read on.
Alan Moore, of “Watchmen” fame, wrote a masterpiece in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” Set in 1898, it features a Victorian super group assembled from the pages of classic works of literature. In the first issue alone, you meet characters from Bram Stokers “Dracula,” “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” “King Solomon’s Mines,” “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” and “Sherlock Holmes.” Though the references don’t stop after issue one, I’d hate to give away anything deeper; suffice to say that the more well-read you are, the more you will enjoy these very intentional Easter eggs hidden throughout.
The story arc, wherein the characters meet, are told why they have been gathered, and then bring their unique talents together to save the day is interesting, and appropriately climactic, but it is not why the story is told, and it is not what makes them worth reading. It is the characters, both singularly and as a dysfunctional team, that drive this story, and make it worth reading on so many levels. The team’s leader, Mina, is a perfect example; though you might have to look up what warrants her inclusion with so many other literary super stars, her role is absolutely vital. At first blush there is little to mark her as either leader or hero; this subtlety, so lacking in the film is what makes the story so unique. It is the deep flaws and very limited powers present in each of the characters that make them worth reading about. Whether these are story telling ideas the author appreciates in general, or homages to the storytelling of the age he is emulating, I could not tell you. Regardless – they are effective.
Unfortunately, the movie got it all completely wrong. Sure, they included a secret service agent, Tom Sawyer, with a truly ridiculous limo as a super power, but that wasn’t the problem. Neither was the fact they completely junked the old, slightly improbable plot with a new, slightly improbable plot staring another famous literary reference. What the writers did was they took away the flaws of the protagonists and turned them into modern super heroes with amped up powers that made them truly super human. No longer were drug problems or personality flaws the driving forces behind the team.
This would be akin to re-writing Alan Moore’s more widely known masterpiece, The Watchmen, as a PG action movie heavy on spandex and witty repartee, and light on pirate-corpse rafts and Rorschach. It just isn’t acceptable. Trust me – if you have seen The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and been disappointed by it, give the graphic novel a shot. It’s not even remotely in the same league.