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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1

Reviewed: August 26, 2003
By: Alan Moore
Publisher: America's Best Comics
192 pages, $24.95

Alan Moore is having mixed luck lately. On the one hand, two of his graphic collaborations have been picked up for the silver screen. On the other, the shooting scripts for the movies have born only a passing resemblance to the original stories that the studies were so eager to snap up and film. Itís odd.

This volume contains issues 1 to 6 of the serial graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In an amusing homage to the era of the pulp magazine, Moore and OíNeill have taken a clutch of 19th century fictional characters and banded them together into a sort of proto-super group.

The dramatis personae include Alan Quartermain (from the book of the same name), the Invisible Man (not the original fellow - he died), Mr. Hyde (and Dr, Jeckyl, of course), Captain Nemo (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Mina Murray (from Dracula).

This team is not the first to make some artful connections in this way. Philip Farmer did it years ago with Doc Savage and Tarzan, while Fred Saberhagen had fun with Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. Moore does it with a twist. of course.

Most of his male cast are sad shadows of the men they used to be. In Mooreís vision it is Mina who is the sanest, most focussed member of this group, who leads in the recruitment of most of the others and persuades them of their mission, which is to stop the destruction of London.

(In the movie version it is Quartermain (played with much aplomb by Sean Connery) who takes charge and keeps the others in line - just the first of many changes in the story line. I enjoyed the movie well enough, but I did end up wondering why they didnít just write their own story in the first place.)

The resulting tale is a good romp through the popular literature of the 19th century, ransacking the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Bram Stoker to good effect.

The film, by the way, not only departs from the story Moore and OíNeill wrote, it is also considerably sanitized. This compilation is not a childís comic book. Parental guidance is recommended.

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