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. 

41 comments:

Paul D Brazill said...

Sounds like cracking fun. I do like The League very much.

The last time I enthusiastically bought a series of comics was Moore's ABC comics. Top 10 was a big favourite, too.

adrian mckinty said...

Paul

Moore's sense of humour and fun is intact. My favourite bit was


SPOILER ALERT



NO, REALLY, YOU SHOULDNT KEEP READING THIS IF YOU DONT WANT TO KNOW BECAUSE ITS A MAJOR SPOILER


the battle between Harry Potter and Mary Poppins.

Paul D Brazill said...

Cracking!

Michael Stone said...

Nice review, Adrian.

I put Moore on a pedestal after reading Swamp Thing, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Superman Man of Tomorrow, Miracleman... But then he went all airy fairy with the Miracleman series and From Hell and I fell out of love with graphic novels in general. Never did read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Maybe I'll add them to the bottom my Christmas wishlist. :)

As for the Watchmen prequels, I think timid is the word to describe all the tie-ins I've been silly enough to read. It's like the author is only allowed to play with the toys in the box so long as he agrees to put everything back exactly as he found them. The very worst example was an X-Files novel called Ruins, in which Mulder and Scully watch a Mayan temple blast off into space, piloted by a race of mummy-like aliens. How will Scully be able to maintain her sceptical stance after this? Easy. A brick hit her on the head and she forgot the whole incident. *sighs*

adrian mckinty said...

Paul

You'll enjoy I think.

adrian mckinty said...

Mike

I really tried to give those prequels the benefit of the doubt but honestly they were all so samey and bland it was embarrassing to read some of that stuff. This is DC's best hired guns? This is the cutting edge of mainstream comics? Yikes.

The League books are in a very different tone that V for Vendetta or Hell or Watchmen, much more of a Victor Book for Boys romp.

Paul D Brazill said...

This is good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS0r3VNdV_k

adrian mckinty said...

Paul

That is good. But Moore has an E Midlands accent not Brummie!

Paul D Brazill said...

All cockneys to me ...

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I like Top Ten, too – the volumes that Moore wrote, that is. Then I tried one that someone else had written, and I couldn’t get through the clunky dialogue in the first few pages. So, as full of himself as Alan Moore may be, he may be right.

Malcolm Tucker???
===========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yup, Malcolm Tucker makes a brief but funny cameo appearance.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I have a 15-dollar credit from my local comics shop lying around somewhere. If only I can find that damn thing. (The credit, not the shop.)

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I'd use that credit to buy League III part 1 first to see if you like where the series is going. Although I enjoyed League III I dont think it was as strong as League I or II. This idea has probably run its course now.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read League III, Part I already. I'm curious to see how stories set in contemporary times read. My inclination is to buy Part II first to see if I like it, then Part III regardless of whether I like Part II, just to see Malcolm Tucker.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Well Malcolm Tucker's appearance is only a cameo in part 3 whereas Michael Caine as Jack Carter gets an entire storyline in part 2 which I thought was pretty cool.

Peter Rozovsky said...

That Carter appearance may have to tide me over until I can find copies of Ted Lewis' books other than Jack's Return Home/Get Carter. But I can't find the goddamn credit slip. I took out of my wallet before I left for England, and I can't remember where I put the bloody thing.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I should have said in the main post that a lot of the visual humour should be credited to Kevin O'Neill the artist. I doubt that Alan Moore is aware of 30 Rock or the Tracy Jordan film Who Dat Ninja? a poster of which appears on a wall in Century 2009.

Peter Rozovsky said...

That's OK. I'm probably less aware than Alan Moore is.

Rob James said...

I've just read Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow which I hadn't heard of before (not being a huge Superman fan) and found in my local library.

The first half was OK but I thought it was a missed opportunity, especially the perfunctory way he dealt with Luthor.

Thanks for the St Kilda tips. Acland St was ace, especially the girls dressed in skin tight rubber sowesters giving out Fisherman's Friend's. I ended up with 31 packs

adrian mckinty said...

Rob

Yup there's always good craic on Acland St.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Oh and a thinly disguised Emma Peel appears as M in part III which I got a kick out of.

Peter Rozovsky said...

How thinly disguised? I have the vaguest of early-childhood memories of The Avengers.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Well its a 2009 Emma Peel so she's aged a bit. I recognised her only because as a geek I knew that Emma Peel's maiden name was Emma Knight and M is referred to as Miss Knight.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

That might have gone by me. I think I'll do a bit of work, then stroll over to the comics shop.

seana graham said...

I'm feeling a bit confused. We have a few comic book fans at the store and so in our newsletter there is something about a rollback on the DC comics to the very beginning, but I don't understand whether they are reprinting the original tales or whether they are providing some kind of update for a new generation or something completely different.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

We're talking about 2 different things: Alan Moore's new comic League III and DC comic's Watchmen prequels.

The Watchmen Prequels have been done without Alan Moore's permission, indeed over his vociferous objections. Alan Moore wrote the original Watchmen comic and the character rights were supposed to go back to him, however after some underhand legal manoeuvering DC retained the rights to the characters and have decided to write a series of prequels to the Watchmen characters. Moore feels that Watchmen needs no prequel or sequel and DC is merely doing this to cynically exploit the comic book fans to part with their money for an inferior and unnecessary product.

seana graham said...

It sounds like what I am wondering about is still a third thing, which I still don't understand.

DC comics created some flac here, when they agreed to an exclusive digital deal with Amazon awhile ago. A lot of stores, including ours, pulled their DC comics for awhile. I don't know if it made any difference, but it was probably still a good thing to do.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

If they ever were, which I doubt, DC isnt in it for the art anymore. Its just about squeezing as much money from each franchise as best as they can.

seana graham said...

Well, aren't we all?

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Nope.

seana graham said...

I don't have a franchise, so I'm not sure I could say.

adrian mckinty said...

I should also point that in the DC Comic before Wathchmen Nite Owl to take one example there are 9 pages of ads in a 36 page comic. In Alan Moore's League III Century 2009 there are 82 pages of comic and no ads at all.

seana graham said...

You know, one thing I hate is when people say that the thing they really like about television are the ads. I don't actually get that. Cleverness expended to no purpose.

Peter Rozovsky said...

That’s one reason I buy comics only when they’re compiled as collections. The regular monthly books feel so flimsy in my hands, they take two minutes to read, and they’re packed with ads.

Meanwhile, my local comics shop was closed by the time I got over there this evening, but the sign in the window mentioned League of Gentlemen 2009 and one of the Watchmen prequels, so I expect these books will sell well.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Paul D Brazill said...

Just spotted this: http://doubleosection.blogspot.com/2012/06/review-league-of-extraordinary.html

Matt said...

The big two aren't good for much any more. But I do give Marvel points for trying to address contemporary issues, even if it is in incredibly ham-handed fashion. DC loses points for revealing one of their old-time super heroes, the first green lantern, as gay in response to Marvel's first gay wedding last month, while Marvel had their first gay superhero 30 years earlier.

On another note Adrian, have you read The Unwritten?

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Laine said...

I check out all your blog entries and not quite sure what all this comic stuff is about but I saw the name Malcolm Tucker so had to comment. I am watching The Thick of It (season 3 now) and am blown away. It is so funny and smart and fast! Recently saw The Hour and rewatched Local Hero and then searched out more Peter Capaldi video. My local library has TTOI--isn't that cool? I am in Olympia, Washington by the way.

hcduvall said...

I haven't really taken to the last few installments of League, but I was pleasantly surprised by True Detective's homages and nods to Top Ten--the last episode basically quotes my favorite issue of that series. I think it also has references to Warren Ellis's Desolation Jones, another "detective" comic, but that one is much more rarely read.