League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume One, The

The British Empire has always encountered difficulty in distinguishing between its heroes and its monsters. - from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume One


            Alan Moore is an outstanding writer, and I have completely enjoyed some of his other work, such as Batman: The Killing Joke and Watchmen.  The idea behind The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is ingenious - gathering together marvelous characters from great stories that are as different as possible and bringing them together to fight a foe also created in an excellent story.  Some of the characters were drawn from a few of my favorite books, and I expected to love seeing them in the setting of a comic book.  I had heard great things about this book, and I had high expectations for it.

            The book seemed to start off slowly, and the main villain revealed at the end of the fourth issue was easily guessable within the first five pages of the first issue.  My hopes were raised, however, when Captain Nemo entered the picture.  His character's personality kept with the original character Jules Verne created in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  His submarine was incredibly cool, his weapons were awesome, and he always ended up showing up at the exact right moment, or pulling out just the thing needed to save the day. Unfortunately, he ended up being the only character I liked within the entire story. 

I had two main problems with the story - the first was the characters (with the exception of Nemo).  Both the heroes and the villains were flawed people - that should have made the story more interesting and believable.  It seemed as though Moore tried especially hard to make the quotation above true, however.  I have a hard time rooting for any team that has as one of its heroes a rapist of underage girls and murderer of policemen.  Not only was one of the "heroes" someone who should have been a villain, but the main villain was made into a somewhat pathetic creature instead of the formidable enemy he was originally created as.  By the end of the book, I could hardly care less who won.  Neither side deserved to.

The second problem I had with this book was that it should have been a mix of the realistic and the fantastical - instead it was a mix of the stereotypical and the ridiculous.  The difference between what this book could have been and what it ended up being is incredible.

            I was completely disappointed by this book - I disliked the characters, was bored at the pace of the story, and incredulous at the absurdity of many of the scenes and situations.  I'm not asking for the book to be purely realistic, or for the characters to fall into the realms of good/evil or white/black - just for it to make some sort of sense, and for the reader to actually be able to root for somebody to win.  By the end of the book, I no longer cared who won the fight - I was just glad it was over.

            The only reasons I'm even giving the book this high a rating are the idea behind the book and Captain Nemo.  I can't really recommend this book to anyone - maybe other Alan Moore fans will have a different opinion.  I wouldn't waste my time, though - read Watchmen or The Killing Joke instead.

Reviewed by: becky
5 Comment(s)
Nick said...
I liked the movie version with Sean Connery (though I'm one of the few). I guess just being an English/Lit major, I was able to catch a lot of little jokes the movie spat out in regards to the original literature.

I take it you don't like anti-heroes? :P One of my favorite movie (anti-)heroes is Riddick, who is a murderer, though an incredibly brilliant one.
Andy said...
I've never seen this fiery side of you Becky. Good review. I saw the movie but back before I even knew what a graphic novel was. I have seen this one sitting on the shelves of Heroes and thought about thumbing through the pages, but now I won't bother.
Becky said...
Nick - The graphic novel also had a lot of literary tidbits for readers of the original works to catch - it was fun to see those, but not so fun to see how far the characters were altered from the original.

I'm fine with anti-heroes - I love both Riddick from the movies and Punisher from comic books. However, neither one raped teenage girls, and if either killed a cop, it was a dirty cop - not one doing his job and protecting the innocent. (Not that killing any cop is okay, but you get my point.) A line has to be drawn between an anti-hero and a villain who helps out the good guys when it helps him (i.e., full pardon).

Andy - if you haven't read Watchmen yet, try that one - it will give you a chance to see Alan Moore at his best.
Shea said...
I hated the movie which as a result hindered me from wanting to read the graphic novel. I like Moore but sometimes he's too much for me. I agree with Becky though...Watchmen, Killing and Joke, and even V for Vendetta are must reads. I even own some Swamp Things he wrote.

Well thank you Becky for answering my curiosity about this one. Like Andy I have seen it perched on the shelves many times...now forever on the shelf it will be.
Josh said...
Not exactly Moore's best, but it's still an interesting read in my humble opinion. The longest and most drawn out Moore story I've ever read was "From Hell". That took quite a bit of effort to get through and I don't ever have a desire to pick it up again. LOEG was something I'd say is worth a cursory glance. The sequel wasn't nearly as good though. It's a sad thought to think that Connery's last film is going to be League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Very, very sad thought.