Friday, July 11, 2014

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009

Clearly not a regular customer of Daniel Antony: The Modern Barber of Northampton
a post from two years ago
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Alan Moore's new comic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century 2009 is the third and final part of the third outing of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In the comic book shop where I bought it, it was in a display right next to the DC Comics' Watchmen prequels which came out last week: Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Minutemen & The Comedian. If Moore had seen that display it might have given him a stroke: his brand new creation donuted by DC's "hack work." Actually I've had mixed feelings about these prequels. Initially I was opposed, thinking them a creatively bankrupt way for DC to squeeze more money out of comic book nerds and Watchmen completists. But then as I saw the impressive cast of artists and writers involved I began to wonder if DC weren't just doing what Moore was doing by appropriating such iconic characters as Raffles, Malcolm Tucker, Jack Carter etc. (without compensating the copyright holders) for his comic; so I decided to give the Watchmen prequels the benefit of the doubt. But last week I finally read the first issues of the first four Watchmen prequels and I have to say that even in this disinterested neutral state of grace I found them pretty underwhelming. The artwork was better than the story, but really if this is the best that the mainstream comics industry can come up with in 2012 then probably the doomsayers are right and comic books are in for a very tough few years ahead. The Watchmen prequels are timid, clumsy and hamfistedly literal in their interpretations of these characters. They lack a cinematic vision and, so far, bring nothing new to the table in terms of mythology. My favourite was probably J Michael Straczynski's Nite Owl, but even that was just so darn...obvious. 
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Back to Century 2009: ok so whats it all about then? Well Century 2009 follows up on what we learned in Century 1969 where Jack Carter, looking a lot like Michael Caine, tracked down the cultists who killed Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and brought East End gangland vengeance to an Aleister Crowley figure who was just about to jump into Mick Jagger's body at a free Stones festival in Hyde Park. The League of Gentlemen were also on the trail of the Crowley cultists because they feared the cult had a plan to bring forth a demonic child who would in turn somehow cause the apocalypse. In Century 2009 the demonic child has been born and he sounds an awful lot like Harry Potter something which I thought was pretty funny. Meanwhile Malcolm Tucker (from The Thick Of It), the Prime Minister's Press Secretary, is trying to defuse an out of control war in the country of Q'mar which got started under President Bartlett (from the West Wing)
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The main delight in Century 2009 is spotting these borrowings because actually the story isn't that brilliant or exciting until the very end when the most powerful faery in the United Kingdom shows up to save the world from the Harry Potter Moonchild run amok. (Alan Moore and I am in complete agreement as to who this powerful faery might be.) As an intellectual game I think I enjoyed getting the insider refs more than I dug the actual narrative (an Andy Millman here, a James Bond there, a lovely Queequeg's chain of Coffee Shops) which, alas, is probably the weakest installment of League III. 
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So is it worth buying? Aye, I reckon so. In these times of tightened belts I'd suggest that you skip the Watchmen prequels entirely until they come out in graphic novel form to your local library (I believe DC when they say that viewed all together the prequels will form an impressive multi-arcing story) but if you're into British pop culture or Alan Moore or League I and II, then League III is worth getting, just don't expect transcendence.