Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Extraordinarily Good

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday and I spent the afternoon sitting in my garden catching up on some reading.

Over the course of an afternoon/early evening I read Witchblade Blood on the Sands, Witchblade #127, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wolverine Weapon X Files and - saving this weeks best 'til last - volume 1 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I'll blog about all of these titles over the coming week but there's only one place to start ...

Until recently my knowledge of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was limited to 1) the film from 2003 that was, at best, not bad and 2) friends would tell me 'it's written by the bloke who wrote Watchmen'.

I picked up a copy of Volume 1 at the recent Bristol Comic Expo and just haven't had the time to read it since - yesterday I read it from cover to cover and loved every page of it.

With a Victorian London backdrop, and following an early adventure to Egypt, the story sees various literary figures - Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin - joining forces to defend Britain.

I really enjoyed the way the characters spoke throughout the book - careful, considered, respectful 'old' English - English that is sadly no longer spoken. This early exchange sets the tone as the League's 'leader' meets her contact, the mysterious and flamboyant Mr Bond overlooking the white cliffs of Dover:

Mr Bond: ''Please Miss Murray, do call me Campion ... and perhaps in return, I might refer to you are 'Wilhelmina'? Simply remarkable the View here, isn't it?''
Miss Murray: ''Remarkable. And Miss Murray will be quite sufficient.''

Within a few pages I was reminded of the writing style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, as I read on, it was a treat to see a number of my favourite Conan Doyle characters make an appearance.

The story reads like a traditional adventure story without ever feeling 'old fashioned' whilst the artwork - pencils/ink and use of colour - perfectly complements the story-telling: it was at times simplistic and sombre and at other times remarkably elaborate with riotous use of colour. I'll try to locate some interior pages and display them but in the meantime you can view and download several preview pages courtesy of DC/Wildstorm.

Complete with cover gallery from the 6 single issues that make up this first volume and an Allan Quartermain short [prose] story by Moore with pencil illustrations from O'Neill this book was a great read. I've now ordered Volume 2 and it should be with me by the end of the week - can't wait.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1
written by Alan Moore, art by Kevin O'Neill with colours by Ben Dimagmaliw
Published by Americas Best Comics in 2000