Friday, February 29, 2008

Honourable mentions: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Vol 1-3

I have been wanting to include the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels on this page for a while, but the vampiric connection is so tenuous that even a honourable mention seemed a bit of a fraud. However, I love the series, thus I’m pushing the envelope, so to speak.

Vol 1. sees the formation of the league, a group of extraordinary individuals who must save Victorian England from fiendish enemies of the empire. For those of you who have seen the film you will be in for a surprise. Firstly the composition of the league is different, secondly the actual characterisations are very different and then there is the reason why this hasn’t been reviewed.

The League is comprised of technological pirate Captain Nemo, opium addicted Allan Quartermain, the unstable Jekyll and Hyde, the utterly sociopathic invisible man and Mina Murray.

Note that in the film she had the name Mina Harker whereas in the graphic novel, as a divorcee, she has reverted to her maiden name and there is no evidence within the graphic that she is a vampire (as she was in the film). Indeed the only vampiric connection within volume 1 is the fact that Mina had survived and helped defeat Dracula before the events depicted.

The graphic is certainly not for children and, had it been filmed straight, the movie would have been an 18 certificate.

Vol 2. continues exactly where volume one left off and is concerned with the invasion from Mars as depicted in War of the Worlds, with the wondrous twists that Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill are wont to place within the series.

Yet again there is no vampiric element; things are as described in respect of volume 1 bar one additional element. Through the graphic novels Mina is depicted always wearing a scarf and, part way through this, she removes it and we see the scars left by Dracula.

What is great about this is that there are no mere fang marks, Mina’s neck is a mass of scars and it subtly gives the reader an indication of exactly how vicious Dracula was in the world mythology highlighted in the series.

The Black Dossier is volume 3 and takes the series on a very different direction. We are now in the 1950s in post Big Brother England and two agents arrive in the country to steal the black dossier, the reports on the league through the ages. It becomes clear to us that the pair are Mina and Allan Quartermain and yet, rather than being elderly, they are both young.

The majority of the graphic is actually prose (from the black dossier) in a variety of styles, which looks at the various incarnations of the League through the years. This includes many different characters, from Orlando, to Gulliver to Fanny Hill and many different styles. There is a boys own section, a lost Shakespeare script and a Kerouac style beat novel excerpt – unfortunately, sometimes it is too clever for its own good and not all the sections work. The graphic section is slight and depicts Mina and Allan trying to escape England with the dossier.

We discover that, whilst the intelligence community believe that Allan is his own lost son, it is apparent he bathed in the same pool of immortality that Orlando used. This is, it is hinted, what made him young again. Whether Mina also bathed in the pool or whether her preserved youth is due to her encounter with Dracula is not answered.

I should mention that the end of the graphic is in 3D (3D glasses come with the volume) and whilst the end section, storywise, was not too fulfilling it was visually some of the most stunning graphic novel art I have ever seen – the 3D being marvellous rather than a gimmick.

Barely a honourable mention but definitely a series to read.

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