The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969

by on Aug.04, 2011, under Comics

The original two books of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were fantastic, of course. What’s not to love about a superteam drawn from 19th-century popular fiction heroes? Part of the fun was in seeing characters we all knew well reinterpreted and placed into each others’ fictions.

It worked because most reasonably well-read fans could be expected to know Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Solomon’s Mines, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and War of the Worlds. If not all of them, then a good number.

As Alan Moore has pushed the story of the League through the 20th century, though, the characters and fictions he’s plundering have become more and more obscure. In The Black Dossier he introduced us to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Emma Peel from the Avengers, and James Bond. Still pretty recognizable, though I’d argue Orlando and Emma Peel are already a step less so. But then in Century: 1910 he gave us Carnacki and A.J. Raffles.

Now, in the new The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969, I recognize literally none of his allusions.

They’re all detailed here (HT Stephen DeStefano). I read through that entire list and didn’t know a single one of those figures except Mick Jagger’s character from Performance, and that’s pretty damn obscure. (Except one: SPOILER BELOW THE FOLD.)

There are rather obvious reasons for this, having to do with the fact that most popular-fiction heroes from 1969 are probably still protected by copyright. Especially since most of them are comic-book heroes. (Caveat: see SPOILER BELOW.)

Nevertheless, Moore is changing the game on us. We will not be given the same pleasures that we got from the earlier part of the series. It takes a while to realize that, during which I, at least, kept wondering when something familiar was going to show up.

This need hardly be fatal. While Moore has done most of his best work appropriating and repurposing other people’s characters, he’s certainly proved himself capable of writing good stories without that crutch.

It’s just that this story I mostly found boring. It’s about the occult, which Moore finds more intriguing than I do, and the characters left in the League—now down to Mina Harker, Allan Quatermain, and Orlando—seem only half-interested in it themselves. Ultimately that leads to catastrophe, and the cliffhanger ending with everyone in a pretty terrible place does leave me curious about what’s next.

I hope I like it better than this. (I did like the short prose sci-fi tale at the back of the book, which continues a similar one from Century: 1910, only written in a 1960s sci-fi style rather than a 1910s sci-fi style.)

Preview here.

SPOILER: The character described so cryptically in the Newsarama decoding is Voldemort. There’s essentially no way to figure this out unless you use the Google.

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