Your favorite cohort of Steampunk heroes is back in another installment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!
Our story starts on the surface of Mars where literary heroes Gulliver Jones (Lieut. Gulliver Jones: His Vacation, 1905) and John Carter (Princess of Mars, 1917) are organizing a resistance against an alien race of foreign origin that is trying to invade. All too quickly their struggle ends with the aliens on their way to the homeland of those who oppose them: Earth.
We meet up with Ms. Murray, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man and the ever so dubious Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde when they are called in to investigate an impact crater in the countryside. Tentacled aliens make short work of the white flag waving humans who try to make contact, and the league retreats for the evening. The Invisible Man slips unseen through the darkness (like a dark unseeable slippy thing) to meet with the aliens in secret, and through the ingenious use of scribbling pictures in the dirt he becomes their ally. After getting his intell, the aliens mount an attack from craters all over England using the giant walking tripods they built to protect their soft, molluscky bodies.
While Nemo and Hyde keep London safe from the attacking hordes, Mina and Allan are sent on a mission to retrieve a special weapon from the infamous Dr. Moreau (The Island of Dr. Moreau, 1896). Relationships are reshaped and bodies broken in the pages leading up to the exciting conclusion of this installment of Alan Moore‘s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
I liked this book, but I preferred the first “LXG”. There were some very interesting moments between Hyde and Mina, and between Mina and Allan, but I wanted an enemy that was less unambiguously evil than killer aliens that just wanted to blow stuff up. The double crossing and false identities in the first one made for an interesting and complex story, which was really what I was looking for in my sequel rather than a romantic entanglement between the doddering Quartermain and Mina. (Yep, there is totally grandpa sex in this book) I usually really like to see my characters grow and change, but it is tricky with this concept of bringing all of these fully-formed characters together because too much deviation by Moore could feel like a betrayal to the original.
In addition to the main story, there is an additional material like the New Traveller’s Almanac that informs the reader all about the world of LXG and more literary reference fun.
If you haven’t read it, check out my reviews of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1.
One of Victoriana’s headliners will always be Jack the Ripper, a serial killer immortalized in the London newspapers of 1888. A string of murders committed in the East End neighborhoods like White Chapel and Aldgate were attributed to a single person because of the distinctive way he dispensed with his victims. He was sometimes called “Leather Apron” because after he killed he butchered the bodies and left them in the open to be found. These murders predate forensic science so there was never a conviction, only a number of letters (thought to be fraudulent) that were sent to the press and signed Jack The Ripper. One that was not so signed is referred to as “The From Hell Letter” because the writer used Hell as the return address. If you want to check out the original letters you can find them here.
The 2001 Johnny Depp Thriller, From Hell, gives audiences just one possible version of events. In this adaptation of a an Alan Moore graphic novel, Depp is a detective who gets psychic visions of murders. He is based on the real life chief of Scotland Yard, Frederick Abberline who worked the Ripper case. With the help of Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid of Harry Potter fame), Abberline uses his flashes of insight to catch criminals. Unfortunately, Depp must be “chasing the dragon” (ie on opium) in order to get his visions.
When the prostitutes of London’s East Side start turning up dead, he goes to them and finds a reluctant ally in Mary Kelly (Heather Graham). She and her circle of friends are being targeted by the ruthless killer, but none of them know why. But no matter the danger, these women must work the streets or risk the wrath of a local gang, which puts them at the Ripper’s (total lack of) mercy. Abberline must discover the dark secret that connects them before there are none of them left. Ian Holm (Fifth Element, The Hobbit) and Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) round out a great cast.
I don’t always like horror films because of the gore, but I felt this movie showed just enough blood to be a Ripper film but relied on good acting while shielding the audience’s view for most of the yuckiest parts. I would call it a thriller rather than a horror movie for just that reason. I haven’t read the graphic novel, but the movie does a great job of weaving conspiracy into a tale of terror.
Steampunk is all about literature, and nowhere else will you find so many Victorian-era characters rubbing elbows as in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from Vertigo. The creator, Alan Moore (whose brilliant mind also brought us The Watchmen) and illustrator Kevin O’Neill take their audience on a wild ride which spans several classic works of science fiction and creates a way for them to occupy the same universe.
The story opens with the corpulent Campion Bond (an ancestor of James Bond) who convinces Mina Murray (aka Wilhemina Harker’s maiden name in Dracula, 1897) to go on a recruitment mission on behalf of the British government. She picks up the opium-besotted ex-adventurer Alan Quartermain (King Solomon’s Mine, 1885) with the help of Captain Nemo and his submarine the Nautilus (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1870). After a jaunt into The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) for the title character and a school run by notorious fictional dominatrix Rosa Coote to pick up The Invisible Man (1897), the league is ready for action.
They head next to London’s East End, where the nefarious Fu Manchu (referred to only as “The Doctor” for copyright reasons) has stolen a valuable mineral that allows heavier than air flight. He is at war with another crime lord on the West End (none other than Professor Moriarty of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1894), and the conflict is on the verge of costing countless lives. Can the heroes beat the bad guys, and the clock, to save the day?
This is a really fun book and I definitely recommend it for fans of Victorian-era fiction. Over the many iterations of the series literally hundreds of literary figures and places grace the pages, so it is kind of like a who’s who of Victoriana. I occasionally have issues with some of the liberties Moore takes with core character traits, but otherwise it is a great display of imagination. As a bonus, if you get the first volume you also get 30 pages of cover art, games, stories and fake historical factoids in the spirit of the Victorian era.
Fair warning, Volume 2 goes darker, dirtier and deadlier, and you can read all about it next week when I review it!
Have you read this book? What did you think?