I have been anxiously anticipating the release of the latest installment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two collections, and enjoyed the first book in this Century series. So, when I received the latest book, 1969, I was excited. Unfortunately, now that I have read the book, my excitement has been substantially dampened.
Both the art and the storytelling felt flat to me. Both Moore and O’Neill just seemed to be filling the pages needlessly in anticipation of the next volume where something is going to happen. In the meantime we, the readers, are stuck with a book of filler where the story from the previous book is continued with very little happening until the end of the book.
Moore has stated before that he enjoys working on League outside of the purvey of a major comic company. Being able to do what he wants in the format and time frame that he wants allows him to build a “slow burn” to the climax. However, in this book, that slow bun was barely an ember. Most of the book is spent with the League wandering from place to place, mostly to give the reader an opportunity to look at a sexually depraved London where sex of all manner and form is on public display.
I am no prude. I enjoy sex and nudity as much as the next guy. But, there has to be a purpose to it. In this volume, almost every conversation or scene took place in front of, next to, or in the middle of some sex scene. Alan Moore’s Lost Girls did a far more entertaining job of setting up a world where sex was part of every day activities. In League, it just seemed to be thrown in to distract from the fact that the entire 72 page story could have been told in half as many pages.
While the climax and fallout of the book is quite important in the overall series, the route to get there was needlessly circuitous and meant that the climax felt rushed and somewhat stripped of its power.
Kevin O’Neill’s art was similarly below par. O’Neill’s art is quite stylized and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I quite enjoyed his art in the previous volumes. It was rich, detailed, and perfectly served the dual role of moving the story forward while providing the necessary visual exclamation points to action scenes.
In this volume of League, however, the art was very inconsistent. Some panels were well rendered and had a life to them. However, many of the panels were flat. The characters seemed disjointed from the background, and the facial features either did not match the tone of the scene, or were uniform across all of the characters, making them appear brainwashed. It was a regular enough occurrence that it left me with an overall negative opinion of the art (which I have never had before with LoEG books).
There was one scene in the book, however, that I thought O’Neill really nailed. The climactic scene takes place on parallel planes of existence, and required O’Neill to draw both the fantastic and the mundane. This scene was O’Neill at his finest, and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book. I wish there would have been more of it! I was on the edge of my seat and felt genuine angst and apprehension about the fate of Mina. THIS was the balance of art and storytelling I had been waiting for!
As I said above, the climax of the book and resulting ramifications were satisfying. I just wish that the rest of the book was the same. I am waiting for Jess Nevins to complete his annotations so I can go back and see all the little bits and bobs of pop-culture and literature that I missed along the way. In addition, I really felt like I was missing something in this issue because I have not read the Black Dossier. While the other books are seemingly independent of Black Dossier, this volume made repeated reference to it. So, it looks like I will have to find myself a copy of that as well.
As for the next volume of Century? Since I have come this far, I am in. I want to know how it all turns out. But, I don’t think I am going to be waiting on pins and needles like I was for this volume. But, if the conclusion of the series is as exciting as the conclusion of this book, then the third volume has the potential to be pretty exciting!