Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1

Volume One

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.

 Review

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It took me more than half way before I could start to get into it and even then I still wasn’t sure what was so good about it. I have seen the film adaptation, that I liked, but I don’t remember why and I can barely remember the story, so there were aspects of the original that surprised me.

The introduction of the invisible man to the group made me want to laugh and not with the story, but at it, it’s such a typical invisible man sexual fantasy. I guess it’s answering the question of what an invisible man would do, but isn’t that the cliché of it? That it’s expected an invisible man, especially a criminally insane one, would go and root unsuspecting women? To me this is unoriginal, but I don’t know if it is truly unoriginal with this story because I’ve already read and watched plenty of stories with an invisible man as it is, or not and I think it’s safe to say that at some point someone would have thought of an invisible man having sex, right (almost like Rule 34)?

By that point, to be fair, it was only a quarter of the way so I was hoping it would get better. Maybe it was a story that wasn’t going to grab me until the middle of it or thereabouts, a slow starter, a steady climber, something I was missing! And it did get a little better, but I still can’t see what the fuss is about and that surprises me because I have really enjoyed Alan Moore’s work so far.

In the beginning a few things don’t match up, such as Hyde’s beginning of change date and the murders in Paris (mentioned very early on so there’s no spoiler there) and then one of the pictures not matching up with a part of the plot. They’re going ‘oh noes! Someone might create a flying machine!’ but there’s already flying machines… Dirigibles (the standard ones you’d expect in Steampunk) are flying machines and there’s a whole panel with them in the background flying around above the city. I realise it’s a possibility a specific type of air machine was inferred, but it pays to be a little more specific when there are already flying machines of some sort present. I’m just saying.

I do like how certain characters are introduced into the story from their origins, the invisible man being one example (from H.G. Wells’ the Invisible Man), their relation to each other, how some information from their fictional history is shared so you can guess at them, but not quite everything is told about them.

I also enjoy how well they mesh together even though they are all so different. I especially liked Captain Nemo and Miss Murray (Mina Harker from Dracula) and how there was such a great use of manners and an element of coolness in behaviour instead of them all losing their heads.

It’s perplexing at times because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is at once a non-original work and yet original at the same time. The characters are from other pieces of fiction and not even the submarine is an original work (the submarine is Captain Nemo’s sub in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne).  It’s glorified fan-fiction, and apart from Warhammer 40K fiction, I don’t usually care for it. Yet at the same time, even with all my problems with it and how long it took me to get into it, I find myself wanting to continue on with the series.

I’d say this is a graphic novel that is best read by those who loved the original characters and couldn’t get enough of them when they finished those novels.

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