Extraordinary Gentlemen

It really doesn’t pay to be an impatient Alan Moore fan these days. I mean, it’s been a very long time since the Great Beard has kept to a completely strict month-by-month schedule with his comics work (there was a brief window with his ABC work post-2000 where things were regular, but it was soon over) – but the delays have gradually gotten worse and worse. I can remember when the second series of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out – and the first three issues were out on a monthly basis. Stunned was not the word. But then, of course, issue four took a while, issue five even longer, and issue six, well by the time we were on issue 6 we were definitely a year later. And of course, in certain respects it doesn’t really matter how long things take as long as they’re good – I just wish the delays wouldn’t keep getting longer. It was bad enough with The Black Dossier – which was delayed and delayed until a specific publication date was stated, and which was then delayed for another year thanks to in-house squabbles at DC – but things do seem to have gotten even worse with League volume 3. Announced back in 2007, I was amazed to find that not only would we be getting the Black Dossier at the end of the year, but 2008 would also see the fabled volume 3, published as a trilogy of self-contained (but interconnected) graphic novels from Top Shelf and Knockabout (with Moore having finally severed all links with DC) – a story that would take the world of the League from 1910 to the present day of 2008! And then, of course, we got to 2008, and the notice “A 2008 release!” on the Top Shelf website got shifted to “A 2009 release!” We inched gradually towards the release of the book – and even that managed to be delayed. The US got the book on time, but while some places in the UK got it, others didn’t. And now, the Top Shelf website has put up a page for volume 2 of Century – and it’s got the exciting tag of “To be released in 2010”! (The sound you can hear is of me bashing my head against the wall…)

And of course, if the first volume of Century had been a bitter disappointment, this would be even worse – but it’s really, really good. The Black Dossier came in for a reasonable amount of criticism, and some of it is justified – it does have way too many digressions, and it is very obviously a sourcebook with ideas above its station (it also doesn’t help that it was very obviously designed to be printed in the oversized Absolute format, but the Absolute edition ended up as such a rip-off (especially thanks to shoddy print quality) that the ordinary size format is still the best way to read it), but it does also expand the world of the League in a number of ways. However, Century volume 1 is a much more coherent piece of work, and while much darker, bleaker and more violent, it does feel like it continues the themes of volume 2, especially the occasionally disturbing examination of the nature of heroism. The characterisation is also a lot stronger, making much more of the main character’s immortal status than before, and while the references are in the Black Dossier realm of more obscure and less pulpy, the story is still highly effective and powerful. It also nearly gets away with being, essentially a musical – it’s a take-off on Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and knowing a couple of the songs (in their original version) did help the enjoyment of the sequences where the narration (or the characters) are singing. Whatever rough edges there might be, it’s an effective tale with more humour, more brutality and hints that the story will (whenever we actually get the next instalment) be heading in some very interesting directions. And above everything else, there’s Kevin O’Neill’s work which keeps on getting better, creating a whole gallery of very English grotesques. I’m pretty sure that once the series is complete, Top Shelf will do an Absolute-sized set along the lines of the Lost Girls set. Can’t wait to see it in that size – I just get the worrying feeling that we’re going to have to wait a very, very long time…

One thought on “Extraordinary Gentlemen

  1. Comment from Jamie Harris
    He was doing a signing at Gosh Comics again recently (they had some adavnce copies of the new book) but I couldn’t go as I was an Usher at Jim Annaly’s wedding! Doh!
    My copy is waiting for me at Gosh the next time I venture into town. Glad to hear it’s another winner…


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