Aug 24, 2010

[Comics] The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Volume 1

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Volume 1As much as adaptations make me feel a little uneasy about the increasing loss of true creativity in the movie world, they still serve some benefit to geek kind. More often than not, adaptations do allow certain genre or niche comics to gain a wider audience and get new readers to return to the source material. This is probably best seen with all the movies based on comic books and how they help even geeks like me learn about great titles that got lost in the shuffle over the years.

While I don't feel it's a good idea to compare the originals with their later day adaptation versions, it's always a good thing to revisit the original material whenever you encounter an adaptation just to see what it was really about. The movie incarnation will always leave things out or change things around in order to make the story fit the medium better (at least in their opinion). But since you've gotten this far, you might as well go back to the source and see what made it worth the Hollywood budget to turn it into a movie in the first place. The results can be quite surprising despite how they'll probably make you not like the movie as much as you did prior to reading the comic.

And what better place to practice this than with the movies based on the diverse and award-winning works of the highly eccentric Alan Moore. He's become quite infamous for his complaints about the movies adapted from his graphic novels and this was the movie that many attribute to being the reason behind this strong stand against the studios.

I took this photo, originally posted by me on ...Image via WikipediaThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Volume 1 was written by Alan Moore and became the very loose basis of the movie, more popularly branded as LXG. Personally, I really enjoyed LXG and felt it was a good movie on its own. However when compared to the original, I can now better understand why Moore got all worked up with what was done to his story and its characters.

The comic in an alternative version of 1898 where the various characters of Victorian literature are all real and in a position to affect the course of history. At the center of this story is Wilhelmina Murray aka Mina Harker, who is recruited by British Intelligence to gather a team of extraordinary individuals to work in the service of the British Empire. Initially she is accompanied by Captain Nemo (of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea) as they seek out Allan Quatermain an opium den in Cairo, Eypt. Eventually they also manage to recruit Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde and Hawley Griffin aka The Invisible Man.

The League's first big mission together is to track down the stolen cavorite, a mythical element that supposedly shields itself and other objects from the effects of gravity. The trail eventually leads them to the Limehouse lair of Fu Manchu. But getting the cavorite back is just the beginning and there's a lot more at stake than the League initially realize.

The six-issue limited series is of impeccable quality in terms of writing and art. Kevin O'Neill's unique approach to drawing the characters gave them a nice older feel without resorting to exactly duplicating Victorian-era drawings. Plus his use of colors and what could be termed to be more uneven / seemingly unfinished lines gave all the characters a nice edge to things. Plus the treatment of the issues as sort of pulp comics of old further added to the seeming authenticity of the entire series run.

And I loved the complexity of the characters - something that no movie could ever manage to capture fully without becoming a 3+ hour epic tale. Each character has their own challenges and motivations that bring them to the League and in the end help Britain become stronger against its enemies. Their true strengths lie in their intellect and character rather than their unique abilities alone. Otherwise, they would have been your usual variety of rock'em, sock'em heroes but in an older time setting, which was clearly not what Alan Moore wanted to achieve in this tale.

Beyond the characters, the premise of the entire series was certainly unique and wonderfully distinct. A lot of us had grown up maybe reading just one or two of these famous stories but to have all these characters together in single comic book universe was something else. And I admit that this sense of excitement is probably limited more to those of us fortunate to read or even just hear about some of these stories and the average youth of today may not fully appreciate things. I suppose this acts as another reminder of why kids today need to be educated in the classics - whether they like it or not. But I jest.

The first volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a gripping and involving tale that feels a lot longer than a mere six issues - but in a good way. It gets 5 Victorian-style flying craft out of a possible 5.
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