Archive for the Top Shelf Category

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910 #1

Posted in Comics, Knockabout, LXG, Top Shelf with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25th May, 2009 by Red Baron
Alan Moore: The Musical

Alan Moore: The Musical

“What Keeps Mankind Alive?”
Author: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O’Neill
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Ben Dimagmaliw
Editor: Chris Staros

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1910 #1 is Alan Moore: The Musical.  In his continuing experiments with the comic book form, Alan Moore has taken his trademark lyricism and cranked it to eleven, for better or worse.  As the first installment in this new era of LXG, it begins with apocalyptic visions of the future, and most of these are conveyed in song.  Moore fans will appreciate subtle references to his earlier work, including, but probably not restricted to Watchmen, From Hell and perhaps even Green Lantern.  They’re not necessary to your enjoyment of the story, but they serve as little easter eggs to enhance it for those that do.  The most obvious connections I made were to the League’s investigation into the Whitechapel slayings of 1888 (From Hell), and the prostitute’s prophetic Song of the Black Raider (Tales of the Black Freighter, Watchmen).

Unfortunately, I had a lot more trouble placing the characters in this incarnation of the League.  At first, the only familiar face was that of Mina Murray, who hadn’t aged a day since 1898.  Then there was Captain Nemo, on his death-bed.  The rest of the team weren’t familiar to me at all – Carnacki the ghost-hunter, Orlando the immortal hermaphrodite, and Raffles the master thief – the only one I could latch onto was Captain Nemo’s estranged daughter, Janni, who arrives in London under the name of Jenny Diver.  It wasn’t until I read Moore’s fake serial back-up “Minions of the Moon” (by ‘Josh Thomas’) that I realised Allan Quartermain Jr was in fact Allan Quartermain Sr, albeit after a dip in the Fountain of Youth.  I didn’t make this realisation earlier because his role in Century: 1910 is reduced to nothing more than a bit-part, which is a sad thing to this LXG fan.  I couldn’t ‘get’ who these characters were, and I was blaming myself for it.  I felt as though there was a gap in my knowledge  – admittedly, I hadn’t read all the appendices in Volume II, nor have I read The Black Dossier – but surely this couldn’t be expected of me, let alone any potential new readers.  Perhaps I was bringing too much baggage to the table, expecting a classic Quartermain/ Mina/Nemo League story, instead of a clean slate (here I am, still willing to blame myself before Moore).  Either way, for LXG fans, I’m almost inclined to recommend reading “Minions of the Moon” first to give yourself a bit of background.

Probably the most fleshed-out characters were Janni and Orlando.  Janni is a hard-headed woman, angered by her own father’s stubbornness, who runs [swims] away from home to escape from Nemo’s shadow.  She’d rather forge her own path in London’s shadow than assume her father’s mantle.  Orlando is casually detached by the trappings of timelessness, mysteriously devoid of the wisdom of experience or duality, always eager to brag of his/her brushes with fame, and concerned chiefly with the pursuit of base pleasures.  (In case you couldn’t tell, I didn’t particularly like Orlando, but he was an interesting character nonetheless.)

What was familiar, however, was Kevin O’Neill’s inextricable artwork.  O’Neill’s art is as integral to the League as Moore’s writing: no-one else is fit to draw it.  This really hits home when the Nautilus re-surfaces (for the fans).  He makes even the mundane streets of London seem interesting.  He gives every panel a dark secret.

Century: 1910 #1 opens with Carnacki’s dream visions of bloodshed on the waterfront and a secret cabal of magicians conspiring to conceive a Moonchild to usher in the Apocalypse.  Mina believes it may somehow be connected with the upcoming coronation of King George the Fifth.  From there, it only gets weirder, and having read “Minions of the Moon” at its conclusion, I suspect the weirdest chapters are yet to come.  Based on Moore’s statements and Top Shelf’s solicitations, this will be an epic of space and time.

As a first chapter, this is a real slow-burner, but I can’t help but feel this is going somewhere big.  LXG fans will be intrigued by this new entry, but newcomers should check out the first two volumes first.