Friday, 7 October 2011

Books: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O'Neill


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

Alan Moore is for all intends and purposes the guy who first got me sucked me into this all comic book stuff. I mean there were a few others who helped (Garth Ennis and Frank Miller - not to mention the motley crew of 2000AD) but Alan Moore's name was the one that I first started to notice and first started to actively seek out - his name an assurance that the story I was about to read was going to be strange and twisted and weird in all of the best and most exciting ways.

But - hey - just we shared so many fun and good times that doesn't mean I'm going to mindlessly defend him when he makes a wrong turn. In fact: it means I'm gonna be maybe even slightly more harsh than perhaps I would be if it was someone else. Tough love and high expectations and all that.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen began it's life as a sort of Victorian version of the Justice League of America - folding well known fictional figures like The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde into one big crime fighting team. Since those first two volumes however Moore's ambitions have grown from simply telling pulpy action adventures into an epic survey of the fictional landscape of mankind (phew). The Black Dossier then (which was originally pitched as Vol 3 before it became something else entirely) is less hijinks and excitement and more the barest frame of a story (which is admittedly pretty cool and very funny ("Oodles O'Quim" and all) on which is hung various parodies and finely crafted pastiches - most of which are pitch-prefect. But (sadly) no matter how expert the writing is (and how many people do you know who could pull off a perfect Shakespeare impression?) I kinda felt that the only person who would properly be able to understand every small part of it is Alan Moore himself: falling into the toxic pit of being not much more than the sum of it's references - or to put it another way: if you don't know who people are talking about - then you're not going to get the jokes and you're gonna be left out in the cold.

So yeah. I'm didn't exactly taken with The Black Dossier. Even tho (even tho) it is massively and lovingly put together (with a wider scope than any of his other comic book work) and touched all over by flashes of evil magic (my favourite being "THIS WARN YOU") and wicked laugh out concepts (check the P.G.Wodehouse/Lovecraft mash-up: "What Ho, Gods of The Abyss!" - which is great great great).

Also: It does have 3-D glasses. But then - it feels a little gimmicky especially when you don't really care about the characters and it's all cleverness for it's own sake: which pretty much sums the whole thing up. Oh well.

Links: Comicbook Resources Article, I Am Not The Beastmaster Review, Salon Review, PopMatters Review, Fraggmented Review, Mania Interview with Alan Moore Part 1 / Part 2, Newsarama Interview with Alan Moore, Black Dossier Annotations.

Further reading: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.

Profiles: Alan Moore.

All comments welcome.

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