With the League of old scattered, Blazing World based protector of reality, Prospero (The Tempest) charges the immortal, gender changing Orlando (Orlando: A Biography, The Story of O… and a crap ton more) to reunite the now immortal, former leaguers Mina Murray (Dracula) and Alan Quartermaine (King Solomon’s Mines) to stop the oncoming apocalypse of the antichrist, who is already in his teens and has picked up some skills from a secret school of the occult, only accessible by a magic train (I don’t need to spell that one out, right?).
If you only know The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from that pretty lame movie that came out a while back, please disregard anything you think you know about this property and start from scratch. In its original comicbook form the League stories are infinitely intelligent and painstakingly researched works that as well as being vastly entertaining have a preset mission statement to bottle (nearly) all fictional works into a singular working reality.
No mean task in itself, the books also aim to work on about a thousand different levels, the simplest being kick-ass adventures and the most complex suggesting that the stories presented are mere conduits to a vaster reality that expands with the readers own knowledge of (or researches into) fiction.
For any other creators these books would be a career defining work, but not so here, because writer, Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta), and artist, Kevin O’Neill (Marshal Law, Nemesis the Warlock) are legends in the industry and be it a compliment to their output or just a terrible burden, works of vast intelligence and detail are simply expected from them.
To the readers of the previous League adventures I can say only this; expect more of the same. Which applied to anything else would mean ‘expect the same old stuff rehashed’ but here means expect a comic of greatness that’ll have you pouring over it for hours, making you feel pretty smart for spotting the references that you actually get, setting you on an internet adventure to discover more references and buying books you never knew existed, and leaving you with the distinct impression that you’ve just read the best comic of the year.
To anyone who has never read a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book I say this, DO NOT START WITH THIS BOOK! Honestly, you will probably enjoy it, but you will be missing out on so much richness. Go start at the beginning. The first two League volumes are adventures of the more recognisable Victorian era of the team and are a great lead in, The Black Dossier then chronicles the history of the team in accordance with the history of the mash-up universe in which they inhabit (this goes right back to the beginning of time, when Lovecraft’s Old Ones were roaming about) then Century: 1910 and Century: 1969, track the core members of the team over the last hundred years and lead directly into the events of Century: 2009.
In general, I think the only people who wouldn’t get along with these books are people who don’t enjoy wordy comics and people who’ll feel daunted that there is so much going on that know is there but don’t ‘get’. For the former, I would say that’s fair enough, but know that it’s not wordy for wordy’s sake, like Stan Lee or Chris Claremont, it’s the kind of wordy that revels in a love of the English language and is dense with ideas and story points. For the latter I say don’t be daunted, no one who reads it ‘gets’ everything, they can’t possibly, just see it as a ripping yarn that can act as a great educational tool if you’re so inclined to look further into it.
Also, some may find O’ Neill’s art difficult to get along with, especially those who have grown up exclusively with slick looking American comics. His art is very British in its layout and energy, and though his ‘style’ may come off as a little simple, this is pure deception because if you see past this ‘simplicity’ you’ll realise that the sheer detail is impossibly staggering.
In this regards, one of the most enjoyable things to do with any League story is to scope out the backgrounds of the panels to see what other books and stories you know have somehow been incorporated into this crazy world of collected fictions. To that end Century: 2009 is the most fun yet, with the already pre-established historically literary characters sharing a world with All the James Bonds, Thunderbirds, Entourage, Harry Potter, Lost, 30 Rock, The Lion King, Minder, Heroes and perhaps my favourite reference of all time, going out to a little seen 90’s film called Fear of a Black Hat, and that’s just to name but a fraction.
Oh, and you will not believe who comes in to lend a hand when all seems lost, and you’ll believe even less who they REALLY are.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century: 2009 is absolutely brilliant, but perhaps not for everyone. You will not find a more intelligent, grown-up, dense and fun book on the shelves for quite some time, being that Moore is in semi-retirement, and only HE is capable of outdoing himself. It is a worthy entrée into the body of work of the greatest comicbook writer in the world.
A+ grade – for originality
A grade – for storytelling
B grade – for artwork
Overall grade – A