Saturday, December 11, 2004

League of Extraordinary Gentemen Volume II

A couple of years ago, a movie was released entitled League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, aka LXG. This movie was rather bad, with generic black trenchcoat, dark alley production design, zero character development, and a convoluted, and ultimately unsatisfying plot. However, the movie was based on a comic series by Alan Moore, one of the medium's greatest writers. League was not anywhere near his best work, but it was an extremely entertaining romp, that mined the pulp tradition in a way that recalls Indiana Jones or Warren Ellis' Planetary.

I liked the first volume of League, but it spent so much time setting up the premise and assembling the characters that it never quite made it to greatness. The second volume picks up pretty much where the first left off, and in the first issue, sets up the basic plot, that martians are invading England, and it's up to the League to stop them. However, rather than going for a huge, epic type confrontation with martians, Moore takes the focus off plot and puts it firmly on character. The three characters who get the most development are Mina, Quatermain and Mr. Hyde.

A lot of the stuff with Mina in this volume relates to her encounter with Dracula back in the book Dracula. In grabbing a pre-existing character, Moore is able to take full advantage of her backstory, through the reader's knowledge of it. I don't think there is ever specific reference to her encounters with a vampire, or that she was in Dracula, but by the context, it becomes pretty obvious. Mina and Quatermain had a really interesting relationship here. The scene where they're having sex and she asks him to bite her was so twisted, and the payoff with the reveal of her neck was genius. I love the fact that Moore is able to create a clearly flawed character and still have her be a hero. She's got a lot of issues, but that doesn't stop her from doing the right thing. The final panels are a really tough ending, and make you sympathize with Quatermain.

The other really interesting character here is Hyde. In the first volume, the focus was mainly on Jekyll, and his attempts to keep the monster in check. What happens here is much more interesting. Jekyll basically vanishes and we get much more character development on Hyde. He clearly is in love with Mina and that makes for a really interesting dynamic. It's almost a Spike/Buffy dynamic, where he's trying to do the right thing to please her, even she clearly has no attraction to him. But, this is played a bit more twisted than that. Before going off to fight the martians, he asks her for a kiss and to feel her breast, which I found hilarious. It was at once so tender a moment, and so clearly wrong what he's doing.

But, despite clear sympathy for the character, the violent streak is far from gone. Hyde's treatment of Griffin was brutal, incredibly wrong, yet perfect for the story. The irony of the very thing that Griffin did to the girls' school back in Volume I being done to him was great, and the reveal of Griffin's fate made for the most awkward dinner scene since Darth Vader and Han Solo ate at Cloud City. I love the moral ambiguity of what Hyde did. He thought he was acting in the right, and Moore at once sympathizes with it and clearly rejects it.

I love the fact that the volume was more character oriented. Very little was seen of the actual martians, they were only a device to explore the characters. It felt much more intimate than the first volume, and also more surreal. The Dr. Moreau stuff was extremely bizarre, and was perfectly illustrated. If I had one complaint, it would be that the first issue is basically indechipherable, and completely unrelated from what happens later on.

So, I'm hoping for a volume III soon. Considering the end of II, it would be very different from what's come before, but I have the feeling Moore knows what he's doing.

Related Posts
Promethea (2/22/2005)
Watchmen (12/8/2005)

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