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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 Review

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill Review

Enter the Victorian Era. Pax Britannia rules and the Empire is at its peak.

Her Majesties’ Secret Service (i.e. MI5) has misplaced a rather dangerous little trifle. To fix this they assemble a strange group of champions.

A cold and bitter social pariah. A drug addicted old colonial legend. A rebel pirate who hasn’t given up his lost war. A repressed scientist’s nightmarish alter ego. And an invisible sociopath.

Welcome to Alan Moor and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!

A fast, funny and violent clash of Victorian fiction & the modern super hero team. Full of inside jokes, stereotypes and globetrotting. It’s got Sherlock Holmes references!! What’s not to like? Read on to find out why it’s a must read graphic novel…  

Rule Britannia, Dysfunctional Heroes & Desperate Governments

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 1 begins in 1898’s London. ‘M’ the head of MI5 order his lieutenant Campion Bond to draft together an unlikely team.

Comprising: Minna Murray (formerly Harker, from Dracula); Allan Quartermain (King Solomon’s Mines); Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea); Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Hyde; and Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man).

MI5 has lost its only sample of ‘Cavorite’, a mysterious mineral that reverses gravity. While the delay of the secret British mission to the moon is worrisome. M fears that some rival power might have stolen the Cavorite.

Imagine an invasion of British skies with flying war machines! Preposterous!!

Fear not genteel reader, it only gets better!

After the standard bit of globetrotting to assemble the team. Leadership of our merry band of misfits is delegated to Minna Murray. There are many funny moments in this. When her prickly demeanor and independent streak baffle and irritate the men around her.

Minna is definitely not the stereotypically feminine and submissive Victorian British middle-class woman. Terms like ‘shrew’ and ‘harpy’ are not unfair character descriptions. It makes for good comedy…

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 -Mina's past...

A Dark and Gritty Thriller -Into the East End

But the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t a lighthearted book.

We see a fictional Britain at the height of its power with all its flaws, grime and horrors.

Smokey cityscapes. Victorian London as a dirty and mean city. Kevin O’Neill’s art showcases this incredibly well.

Our heroes get intelligence that the stolen element might be in the hands of a notorious East End crime lord. The Devil Doctor.

The Doctor, not to be mistaken with Doctor Who (another British staple).  Is a ruthless Chinese warlord with a grudge against British imperialism.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -Look into my eyes baby

Not everything is as Ms. Murray and company think it is.

Danger is lurking a lot closer to home than our heroes think.

Will the League survive is inaugural trial-by-fire?

Can a gang of misfits save the British Empire from its enemies?

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 is a fast paced mash-up of some of Victorian literatures most beloved stories. Mix this with the modern superhero team and you have a winner.

Kinda what the Fantastic Four would be like with top hats, English accents. And sociopathic levels of violence!

You will enjoy this graphic novel. I picked it up because I enjoyed the movie with Sean Connery as Alan Quartermain. I was not disappointed!

Beloved Victorian Characters Like You Have Never Seen them Before

As a rule I am very careful about reading anything by Alan Moore.

Most graphic novel geeks are in love with him.

And it’s easy to see why. He is a genius! But he also has a cruel streak wide enough to make George R. R. Martin blush.

Mr. Moore delights in finding new and exciting ways to make characters die. The more horrible and cruel. The better!

He also tends to go off into abstract concepts and ideas that don’t advance the storyline. He’s a clever man, but sometimes his love of detail and mayhem get in the way of his story telling.

This is something that I have observed with other British graphic novel authors as well. Warren Ellis is another example of this.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 does not suffer from this malady. While it is a R-18 book -graphic violence with not so graphic sex and language. It’s also simple and straightforward story about the League and it’s first mission.

The Leagues characters might be known to you from Victorian literature. But they have been completely re-imagined through a modern perspective. They are more’modern’ in their appetites, desires and motivation.

This can be rather terrifying and unsettling.

We see Quartermain struggle with his drug addiction.

Mina suffers the social stigma Victorian society placed on divorcees.

Captain Nemo is a brilliant and angry exile. Who is temporarily working for the Empire that has occupied and plundered his homeland.

Mr. Hyde takes being a monster to another level, think Hulk with the urges of a serial killer.

And then there was the Invisible Man. Hmmm a sociopath who cannot be seen and hides out in a girl’s boarding school…

But when all is said and done, the league will grow on you.

The story is a wonderful re-imagination of timeless characters. It’s both a home and a subtle ‘f-you’ to the much (over) romanticized Victorian era.

While the members of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen might have extraordinary powers. They are not all powerful or over powered like many other super hero teams.

Many times our heroes depend on stealth, surprise or just plain dumb luck to survive. While there are epic fights, they only happen when all other options have been exhausted.

And things don’t always go in the League’s favor.

The Art and Writing of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1

Alan Moore is no slouch when it comes to writing and researching story backgrounds. His enthusiasm and love for the story shows. Dialogue flows. Foreign language text is actually written in that language. Which is a nice touch

On the art side. Kevin doesn’t draw beautiful people. He just draws people. Some beautiful, some average and some ugly. His characters look and feel British.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -Beautiful Ugly People

O’Neill almost exaggerates the ethnic characteristics of the different peoples he draws. But does so well without crossing the border into the ridiculous.

He is also a master of body language. Sometimes you know what a character is doing or feeling just by looking at them.

In some ways his art reminds me of Mike Mingolas’ style. Clear lines with the barest of detail. But it works!

Like Mingola, Kevin O’Neill really understands the use of positive and negative spaces. He doesn’t depend on shading to give his art depth or volume. Light and shadow are only used where they have the greatest impact.

The little Easter eggs and jokes he hides in the backgrounds are also a nice touch.

Conclusion

This graphic novel collects the first six parts of the series. And is well worth the read!

If you like Victorian fiction or traditional superhero teams. This is definitely a book to have on your shelf. I liked the story line in Vol. 1 even better than the movie and I love the movie.

Steam punk, spy games and ultra-violence meets Victorian Britain.

Only Alan Moore’s demented mind could come up with that.

Tally-ho old Chap, what are you waiting for? Read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 now!

Happy ready 😉

PS: Click here to Order The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 in paperback today.

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