Skeletons From My Stack: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
I’ve always been a huge fan of Swamp Thing. After reading the first few volumes of Saga of Swamp Thing, I became a huge fan of Alan Moore. I’ve since read a large chunk of Moore’s bibliography, but there’s one title I’ve shied away from. That title is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Allow me to explain why. I don’t tend to watch movies that are adapted from specific books I’ve read and enjoyed. Conversely, if I see the movie version of something first, I rarely care to read the book it was based on. That’s what happened with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I saw the film in theaters, not knowing it was based on a comic book. I’ve since seen it again more times than I can count. I’d re-watch it every time it was on cable (which was, and probably still is, often).
So how did the graphic novel wind up on my to-read stack? I won a gift card to a local book store last year. They had a small graphic novel section, mostly Marvel and Superman trade paperbacks. Then I noticed the first volume of The League of Extraordinary and decided I’d at least buy it to add to my graphic novel collection. It’s sat on my stack for eight months. Now I’m dusting it off for this newest installment of Skeletons From My Stack.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a historical fiction comic series with steampunk elements. Writer Alan Moore fills the story with characters from classic literature. The series opens with Campion Bond, working on behalf of the mysterious Mr. M, tasking Wilhelmina Murray with recruiting a group of eccentrics and outlaws. The group, the eponymous League of Extraordinary Gentleman, is given a mission to retrieve a substance known as Cavorite before it can fall into the hands of England’s enemies. The story itself hasn’t aged well. That’s saying something considering it was originally published in 1999. There were many times where it seemed like Moore chose the most offensive bits of history even though they weren’t essential to the actual plot. It makes for a gritty story that skews closer to offensive than historically accurate.
I was surprised by the appearance of several literary figures not used in the film, including Auguste Dupin, Dick Donovan, and Mycroft Holmes. There’s also a plethora of minor references to many other works of literature, by authors such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Anthony Trollope, H. Rider Haggard, Russell Thorndike, Johnathan Swift, and James Fenimore Cooper. I’m an avid reader, who has perused many of the classics, so I had a great time searching for the literary Easter eggs scattered throughout the issues. The series was also much gorier than I expected, but this just made the action scenes that much more exciting. This collected edition of the first arc also includes a short story written by Moore and featuring Quartermain.
Kevin O’Neill draws the book in a rather abstract style. For a period piece, I thought the colors were a little bright. The colors fit the art style, but didn’t necessarily fit the setting and themes of the story. The Illustrations are impressively detailed, though sometimes almost to too great an extent. This makes it hard to tell what’s going on at certain times while at others the details make for gorgeously rendered scenes. The various city-scapes are especially impressive. I also liked that the line work and hatching gives the images a sense of depth and texture.
Honestly, I think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of the rare examples of the film being better than the book. I did enjoy the nods to science-fiction within the book’s plot. It fits the narrative better than the standard bombing plot used in the film. I also preferred the comic’s version of Alan Quartermain over Sean Connery’s portrayal in the film adaptation. Yet of the two, the movie was all-around more enjoyable than the first volume of the comic. Having finally read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and finding I prefer the film, it turns out this comic probably should have stayed a skeleton on my to-be-read stack.
Story: Alan Moore Art: Kevin O’Neil
Color: Benedict Dimagmaliw Letterer: Mr. William Oakley
Story: 2.5 out of 5 Art: 3 out of 5 Overall: 2.5 out of 5