Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1
by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Kevin O'Neill
published by Vertigo of DC Comics, 2000
no pagination

Goodreads Description:
London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the twentieth century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos. It is an era in need of champions.

In this amazingly imaginative tale, literary figures from throughout time and various bodies of work are brought together to face any and all threats to Britain. Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man) form a remarkable legion of intellectual aptitude and physical prowess: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

My Review:

I'm quite new to graphic novels (although this one is something a bit different), I'm happy to have been assigned this book for a class. It was a mental stretch for me. To begin, Moore writes this book within the context of its era. Therefore, the blatant racial and sexist stereotypes were at first a shock to me before I caught on to what Moore was doing. 

The story draws on characters across literature to form a sort of Justice League, only much darker. Moore plays with the heroics and villainous nature of known characters and sets them in colonial London. The heroes, Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Jekyll and Hyde, and the Invisible Man come from dark and unlikely places; they are impossible heroes, underdogs, but certainly not to be trusted. Quartermain is recovered from an opium den, Dr. Jekyll/Hyde is terrorizing Paris, and Griffin (the invisible man) is raping young girls at an orphanage.
The strange group is gathered under the mysterious "M" to do bidding they believe will be saving London. Throughout the story, several literary cameos appear which add more humor to the the twisting plot. 

I'm no expert on graphic novels, but I really enjoyed this one. The images were fantastic. The use of color and shadow impacted the way I read the story. Also, some pages had as many as nine frames, making the story seem to moving quickly and intensely; it really enhanced my reading experience. Also, as an English major, I really enjoyed the backgrounds to literary characters I've read before, even some of the smaller roles such as Mina Murray from Dracula. I haven't read all of the stories these characters are drawn from, and I'm sure I missed some of the cameo's. This novel is still suitable for those who haven't read the original novels the characters are pulled from. Many characters are still recognizable without having read their original settings. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are popular, somewhat romanticized characters that most will recognize. And I doubt many will miss Sherlock Holmes' appearance. 

I give this a four out of five foxes. It was a humorous tale of unlikely heroics, it pairs colonialism with anti-colonialism and exposes the lies of the era, and several cameos and bonus material add to the humorous exposition.

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