Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Alan Moore's Extraordinary Gentlemen = fantastic!

About the only thing I knew about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen before reading it is that there was an extremely crappy movie made. I know it was a crappy movie because I watched it and can’t remember a goddamned thing about it. I think Dorian Gray was in it because he plays such an important role in the first trade dress, there off to the right behind the group.

These two volumes have made it really hard for me to comment upon them. I simply enjoyed them a heck of a lot. Now, I’m not too big on reading older books anymore, two degrees will take some of the wind out of your sails, so I didn’t know who Mina Murray was until she took the scarf off. Hey, there’s a lot of “classic” English lit out there, nobody can read it all. And yes, I know Nemo is from a French author, shut it.

Well, I loved them. I enjoy Moore’s examination of the supergroup dynamic and how it could possibly fit into a historic time period. And yet this isn’t exactly the Victorian England of history. It’s a pseudo-fantastic version of remembered history. It’s the history of fantasy mixed with the history of reality. I do love the idea of the crumbling Empire being required to turn to her former enemies to defend itself. There is a reflection of the fall of the Roman empire as we see the English empire embrace those it tried to conquer and repress. There are hints that the Empire collapses because it simply absorbed too much not to change its foundation.

There is a faux exterior presented to the world of the English Empire that is reflected through the existence of the Murray Group. They have fantastical elements but their activities are kept hidden. No need to try and crack the English resolve and disillusion their grand entitlements (or sense of entitlement and privilege).

The first volume is essentially the beginnings and recruitment of the group, and in a round about way answers the burning question of how Batman and The Hulk would act on the same team. It’s Cpt. Nemo and Mr. Hyde if you’re lost on that. I know that there isn’t meant to be any straight parallels between these books and anything else but I kept thinking that and it added a dynamic to their interactions that made me smile. The rest of the first volume is taken up with espionage goodness and some dramatic visuals based around the East-West divide that first came to light in Victorian England. You could write a paper on the East-West and notions and representations of the orient and “the other” in this comic, but I don’t feel like it. I’m just trying to help out anyone who is in undergraduate English lit classes.

Then there’s the second volume that is the “action” partner to the espionage thriller of the first volume. This is more or less a retelling of The War of the Worlds with more sex and explosions. There is treachery, ties are broken, and nobility is found in a complexly fierce being. Mr. Hyde takes on a bigger role in this volume, not just as the reflection of a man’s darker, meaner, primitive side he played in the first. Dr. Jekyl is barely present, instead we have Mr. Hyde essentially taking over the role. He begins to understand his actions and while brutally fierce he becomes the one character who doesn’t hide behind a false fa├žade. Dr. Jekyl is stripped away and Hyde takes on the role of the noble savage.

In many ways the facades presented in the first volume all get stripped away here. The Invisible Man reveals his intentions, Nemo refuses to cooperate with the English he fought for so long, Miss Murray finally removes her scarf, Quartermain strips down to his boney naked self and Mr. Hyde isn’t in a rage as he continues his actions and his quest. He comes to terms with who and what he is and, in turn, uses that to help in the only way he can. He uses his destructive ability for good. What Mr. Hyde shows us is that using any destructive force for good is still inherently brutal and does debase those who purvey it. He is fine with his actions and in some ways he ensures that his path is laid out before him. He needs to meet his end and to do it for a noble reason even if there is a sense of futility to it.

Mr. Hyde, shows what happens when a brutal system comes to terms with its own brutality. AS the Empire began to crumble and realize the horrors it committed, the Empire didn’t stop itself, it only became desperate and tried to remain noble when presenting itself with defeat.

I guess I had more to say than I thought. All I really wanted to say was that some pubescent boy or crusading Christian cut out a panel in the first volume when the group first encounters Mr. Hyde. I suppose it had boobs or a penis on it and that this person didn’t get around to borrowing volume two. Also after reading volume two why is anyone surprised that Alan Moore has a book about literary characters having sex?

No comments: