Jonathan Woodward (woodwardiocom) wrote,
Jonathan Woodward

Books: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

The third volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's legendary League series came out last week. (Unlike the previous two volumes, this one was not published in individual issues first.) I confess, I found it to be less entertaining that the previous ones.

This is not due to any unwillingness to experiment on the part of Moore and O'Neill. The book is told in alternating sections, with regular comic book bits featuring the protagonists alternating with varied excerpts from the Black Dossier, the text-within-the-text that gives the history of the League from its creation under Queen Gloriana (this alternate universe's version of Queen Elizabeth) to the 1950s, when the framing story is set. The excerpts are very varied in form, and even in paper, with (for example) The New Adventures of Fanny Hill, or, The Further Memoirs of a Women of Pleasure being on a heavy, near-cardboard stock, while Pornsec / SexJane / Pictell #00682 / Compulsory enjoy! You Read Now! / Workbelt Crimepoke!, a Nineteen Eighty-Four-universe pseudo-Chick tract pornographic comic about the dangers of non-procking, is on near-newsprint and its pages are only 5" tall. Oh, and, most of the Dossier pages are text, not comics.

And, the last bit of the book is in 3-D, with glasses provided attached to the back flap.

Why did I not enjoy it as much? Well, it doesn't feel like there's much new here. It's a lot of fictional-character name-dropping, just with greater variation in format than in the previous volumes. It doesn't help that the names dropped are a bit more obscure this time. (And also more obscured, as some of them are not in public domain yet.)

The relentless character assassination of James Bond, while arguably accurate, nevertheless didn't float my boat. A character is only as bad as his writers. It's also hard for me to be comfortable about the Golliwog — I get that he's not strictly a racist caricature in the storytelling sense, but he's still a racist caricature in the physical depiction sense. And then there's the nigh-relentless tawdriness. I likes me naked wimmin, I do, but a lot of the sex and nudity in this book struck me as gratuitous to the point of distracting.

The Dossier itself is also a problem. It is basically a big slew of tell-don't-show. We are told about the battle of the Paris Opera House, for example, but we're not shown it. The life of Orlando could easily fill years of comics, but we just get a quick overview.

On the flip side, I do like a happy ending, and the intersection of Bertie and Jeeves with the Cthulhu Mythos kept me smiling.

So . . . I can't recommend this to everyone (unlike the previous two volumes, which are splendid), but for those who enjoy playing spot-the-fictional-reference, and don't mind rolling their eyes a bit, this can be a lot of fun.

And, lest I forget, the irreplaceable ratmmjess has provided annotations.
Tags: books
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