The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volumes I and II – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m one of those people who saw the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen long before I ever read the comic books. I once thought the film was awesome, but after having the read the original stories, I now realize the movie could have been so much more! What’s so extraordinary about this league? I’m glad you asked…

Let me catch you up to speed if you’re not familiar with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The stories take place in England in the late 1890’s. The characters are icons of literature such as the Invisible Man, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, and Alan Quartermain. The government of England assembles them to battle extraordinary circumstances within its borders. The first volume deals with a famous villain who shall remain nameless, and the second volume deals with a Martian invasion, ala the famous tale by H.G. Wells. Both volumes are rife with literary allusions, so an old literature nerd like myself was flying high throughout.

The author of these volumes is the eccentric but highly respected creator by the name of Alan Moore. He’s brought us many classics, but he is most widely known for his masterpiece, the mid-eighties magnum opus known as the Watchmen, which is largely responsible for moving comics out of the “comics are for kiddies” paradigm. He is obviously a connoisseur of the literary classics, for he has so many references to works of literature throughout these volumes that two companion pieces have been produced explaining the dozens of nuances found within (think of it like Breaking the Da Vinci Code for Dan Brown’s ultra-popular novel). Although his writing is at times disturbing, Moore is an expert at what he does and his stories are always captivating. The further characterization of such classical characters and bringing them together in such odd situations and having them interact, well, it’s completely delightful.

The artist is a man named Kevin O’Neill, and I was largely unfamiliar with any of his previous work. However, his style is perfect for this type of story, and his careful attention to nineteenth century architecture and dress is phenomenal. Again, like the author, some of his drawings are quite provoking, but they are all magnetic in their execution.

I would completely recommend these two volumes for a reader wishing to break into only the best of comics in their trade paperback form. Be mindful, however, these comics were not released as mainstream works, so they don’t play by mainstream rules. Very gory scenes, matched with the first and only actual sex scene I’ve ever seen in a comic book, requires an open-minded and tolerant reader. You won’t be disappointed in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I’m quite certain of that.