Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O’Neill
America’s Best Comics, 1999, 2002, 2018
NOCTURNAL MAMMALS relinquished daylight to the dragons and those long nights I believe remain in us. At the end of the nineteenth century and decades on as whale oil turned to gas and then electric lamps, and rails and ships and alternate power connected us globally for the first time, then the night re‑opened like never before at least since so long ago when we abandoned slit pupils and padded claws to stride into daylight to conquer the earth.
This awakened era not long ago took back the night, and as a matter of course folks became busy at any hour: under the sea, in deepest Africa, in creviced Transylvania, and infested London streets. Come the light!
People started reading avidly to pass the evenings.
Imagine a universe where the strenuous heroes and heroines of burgeoning nineteenth-century literature inhabit the same plane as if a modern monopolist firm, in this case the public domain, finally gathered the rights from many dozens of authors to revive their characters in a world where they know each other, or of each other, and naturally come together once a crisis arises to call for their extraordinary capacities. Thus, writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill launched the story of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Volume 1 in 1999, and Volume 2 in 2002; and then Volume 3 in 2018, after a long hiatus.
The extraordinary team-up adventures in the first volume introduce Miss Mina Murray, Allen Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Jekyll and Hyde, the Invisible Man, and others on the cover and between the covers, like Holmes and Moriarty; and later a romping rendition of Martian tales and a Wellsian war of the worlds. The artwork is cartoonish, yet immaculately detailed in both foreground and background.
Steampunk crystallized as a concept for me in these stories of the extraordinary league. I was already a big fan of H. Rider Haggard and Robert Louis Stevenson so it was easy to drag me along into Nemo’s splendid submarine.
Returning to the earlier tales of the extraordinary league, I found the other half I’d forgotten, and maybe never took time to encounter before completely, the text tale at the end of the illustrated tale, where author Alan Moore spins a larger web to stretch his many legs, with accompanying snapshot illustrations from Mr. Kevin O’Neill. Chapter IV. THE ABYSS OF THE LIGHTS begins:
“Quartermain knew that in reality his mortal body was elsewhere, back in the solid world and no doubt comatose upon the floor of Lady Ragnall’s ruined, flame-lit library; victim to an overdose of the time-twisting drug taduki.”
The Moore wizardry in these paneled rooms of words warms one. After my own heart, I want to say.
There is also a good deal of repugnance and unpleasant things as in reality with any crew we find not all members play nice. Bullies are often a bother in the workplace, and Moore seems destined to remind us how heroic tales of national pride tend to gloss over ugly conflicts that often tear teams and families and friends apart.
Who is the bad one? Or is that the relevant question?
Grooming for the new tales of the extraordinary league, numbers two, three, or a spinoff, one might consider traveling the old roads again, and take time for the extended sites in the prose parts. This holiday I always remember among the best.