Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1
Alan More, author
Kevin O'Neill, illustrator
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: America's Best Comics; 1st edition (October 1, 2002)
Read 30 January 2011
3/5 stars

I was predisposed to love The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1, as alternate history is a favorite genre, and famous character mash-ups a particular favorite as well. Volume One introduces a "menagerie" (as they are often referred to) of otherwise famous literary characters brought together to help Queen and Country with dangerous tasks in a somewhat steampunky Britain of an alternative history. Two characters, Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain, are favorites of mine from their original novels and I loved the idea of them having more adventures.

This graphic novel has many literary references, both in the text and illustrations, which is a delight for a book nerd. The pseudo-Victorian style and parody of Victorian serials used throughout the novel was highly amusing for a fan of that era and added an extra level of enjoyment.

Character development and setting introduction took the first few chapters ("issues") and was pretty well done. The personalities of the five members of the League were nicely established and tantalizing hints given about the world from both the illustrations and the text. I became quite fond of the characters, even the amoral Griffin, and was eagerly awaiting plot development.

When the plot did develop, however, it was unsatisfying. Perhaps because so much time had been spent developing characters and world, very little time was able to be given to generate a decent plot. It was a messy, mishmash of explosions and overaction (not to mention overacting) and made very little sense. If it was meant to be a parody of Victorian fiction, it didn't read like any of the multitude of Victorian novels I have read.

The art was nothing spectacular. While there were some scenes drawn with "hidden" references, these occasional treats did nothing to add to the story. The illustration of the panels is a very straightforward, comic book style, with no artistic angles or composition. The lines are harsh, the backgrounds busy, the colors generally unappealing. There were even times when panels were so busy with so many irrelevant details, that it was hard to find the action. I certainly did not feel that I was reading a graphic novel where the art is vital to the storyline; I felt as though I were reading a comic book.

Despite my interest in the characters, the lack of a real plot line and the average art made this very promising premise a mediocre read. I truly am interested in the characters, though, and may still give the second volume a try to see if Moore and O'Neill were simply getting established with this volume.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge.~~

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