Shiny Shelf

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #2.1

By Mark Clapham on 01 September 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Last time we saw Alan Moore’s literary super team, stars were falling over England. It was a cliffhanger ending that we were left with for what seems like an age. Now, finally, we get the next chapter.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this issue doesn’t pick up with the League rushing to the crash site – that’s saved until the last few pages. Instead, we get a view of Alan Moore’s Mars, mixing the various Martians of numerous authors into a view of a Red Planet dominated by various tribes. These tribes join forces to repel an invading force, with the assistance of a couple of ?migr? humans. Needless to say the alien invaders have their sites set on another planet altogether…

Those who know the League from their first adventure could probably have extrapolated most of this from the formula – every character in the book is taken from 19th-century fiction – but few of us could have taken the imaginative leap to envision Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill’s lush Martian landscape. This fictional Victorian vision of the planet, with its exotic creatures and richly clothed tribesmen, is a far more interesting backdrop than the dust bowl world we’re used to seeing in most science fiction. The ingenuity with which Moore combines his sources, and the beauty of O’Neill’s illustrations, bring this world to life.

After the authentically stodgy pulp serial in the back of volume one, Moore has this time opted for a more innovative back-up feature. The New Traveller’s Almanac is a guide to the world through the eyes of fantastic fiction, a world of ancient monuments and strange journeys, all mixed together into a bizarre alternate reality. It’s great fun, especially with Moore’s ruthlessly practical treatment of fairly innocent fiction – dissected Water Babies, anyone? It’s not entirely the sad exercise it may seem, with a number of neat little jokes thrown in – I especially liked the various contradictory versions of Arthurian myth that pop up, unreconciled, throughout the text piece.

Wrapped in a delightful portrait of the Martian tribes by Mr O’Neill, this start to the second volume of the League’s adventures is well worth the wait. Existing fans will be first in the queue, but anyone wanting a delightful dip into the unrestrained and barking world of Victorian fiction, streamlined into a strong central narrative by Mr Moore, shouldn’t be far behind. With the League’s first cinematic outing currently filming in Prague, now is the time to get ahead of the multiplex pack by sampling the concept in its original form.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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