I’ll never forget when I first read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I knew Alan Moore was a god among men in the comic book world, but even I wasn’t prepared for the majesty of his storytelling, the potency of his intelligence, or the power of his inspirational imagination.
Thus, when news surfaced that a new League adventure called Black Dossier was in the works, I could not wait—COULD NOT WAIT—until its release.
Finally, after more than a few delays, it was unbound, and while I won’t say I’m disappointed in it, I don’t love it as I did the other two League volumes. That being said, I respect Moore all the … more … for Black Dossier.
Alan Moore is not afraid to create art on his terms, and his terms alone. While Black Dossier does not have the charismatic story or sheer excitement of its predecessors, it absolutely pushes the limits as to what has traditionally been accepted in comic books the last several decades.
For example, Moore has said for quite a while he’d like to write a comic that made use of 3D glasses, and so Black Dossier does (no worries—glasses included). There are postcards, comic strips (like in the newspapers), excerpts from single spaced files with handwritten notes upon them, unreleased editions of works written by popular authors or featuring well-known characters, and pamphlets. Seventy-percent of this book literally duplicates the innards of a dossier. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Consequently, I feel I also must comment on the exorbitant amount of nudity in this book. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has always been a book for mature readers and on par with an R-rated movie. Like every other aspect of Black Dossier, Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill challenge conventions, and I admire them for that. However, even I found the level of nudity gratuitous. For some characters, the nudity made perfect sense when looked upon in a historical light (of which Moore is an aficionado), but at times it seemed the nudity was thrown in for simple orneriness. In other words, this is probably not a book you’ll want your children to get hold of. And if they’re unfamiliar with Alan Moore and his rebellious inclinations, I also wouldn’t expose it to your parents, husbands, wives, boyfriends, or girlfriends.
Even so, because of the willingness of author Moore and artist O’Neill to put forth so much effort into an undeniable work of originality and fearlessness, they earned my unending respect. However, I’d be lying if I said the nontraditional embellishments were enthralling. True, they work in a roundabout way to complete the overall story, but in the end, taken as a whole, the story wasn’t terribly interesting, and the accompaniments served as an impediment to an already deficient plot. My disappointment originated from the impression that the plot served the concept, rather than the concept serving the plot.
As an artist, I absolutely loved the boundaries Black Dossier annihilated and believe Moore and O’Neill should be looked upon as artistic liberators. As a reader, though, I found Black Dossier dull and plodding.