The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2, |
by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill
(America's Best, 2003)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- the excellent book, not the mediocre movie -- picks up in the sequel on Mars, where warlord John Carter, far-ranging traveler Gullivar Jones and various races of allied Martians prepare for battle with a fierce race that has invaded the red planet. There are brief references to the works of Michael Moorcock and C.S. Lewis -- already it is clear that this sequel is every bit as literate as the first volume in Alan Moore's series -- before the battle turns in our heroes' favor and the more sinister race flees the planet. But it's not a rout, as Carter first believes; rather, it's an armada headed straight for Earth.
The remainder of the second League tale borrows heavily from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, focusing on England as the giant capsules crash down and black smoke begins to spread. But the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- the mysterious leader Mina Murray, adventurer Allan Quatermain, the invisible Hawley Griffin, submarine commander Captain Nemo and the dual-natured Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde -- wait just beyond the Thames to halt the invasion.
Or do they? In some ways, the League stands by and runs errands while another solution is found. And yet they are heroic -- in their own quirky way -- just the same. By the end, two members of the League are dead -- one courageously, the other by rather ignominous means. One member betrays the others, and another quits the team in disgust. Britain becomes the first nation to engage in secret biological warfare -- at some cost to its own people -- and a cute little bunny is eaten by foxes. The League lies in ruins, but the final page promises an intermission, not an end, to their tale.
The story isn't quite as strong as the first League tale (although still far stronger than the film), but Alan Moore's text, littered with references to literature both famous and esoteric, and Kevin O'Neill's tight, muted artwork deliver a grand adventure all the same. I can only hope it isn't too long before a new League rises from the ashes of this one.
For anyone who can't wait that long, there's an interesting travelogue of sorts in the end of this collected volume, as well as assorted games and doodles to enhance the book.