Given the overwhelming criticism that has been directed at the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s homage to 19th Century literature you would not be blamed in opting to dismiss ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ as something of little significance or intellectual merit; though to do so would be at your own loss. Whilst the film fails in several aspects of its construction the original source material is both glowing with charm and intelligent in design, making the book a welcome addition to any comic-enthusiast’s collection.
One of the main attractions of the text that is distinctly lacking in the film is most definitely the art style and direction; the style and layout of the book deliberately reminiscent of other works from the 19th century, with additional supplementary tales and adverts found within the pages amongst the main narrative arc. This attention to detail not only helps to familiarize the reader with the period in which the plot is centered, but also creates an air of authenticity to the text that breathes life into the story. It is arguably this attention to detail taken by Moore and illustrator Kevin O’Neill that packs most of the novel’s charm, with the art style endearing throughout, whilst also expressive and brimming with action.
Although, with that being said, the story itself is not entirely without merit. Not only is the text’s plot full of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged, but also plays host to a collection of personalities to invest in, including Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, H.G Wells’s ‘Invisible Man’, and Stoker’s ‘Mina Murray’. These personalities are themselves magnificently presented within the book, and, under the careful guidance of Moore, are the subjects of an unlikely chemistry that permeates every page.
There are however some flaws. These include, for example, the relative brevity of book for all its depth and detail. It is this deficiency in length that is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of an otherwise spectacular graphic novel from Moore and O’Neill, with the case itself to which these extraordinary gentlemen are assigned showing some significant room for expansion. The lack in length also inevitably affects the amount of time spent with each character, which does to a minimal degree hinder the characterization. This, however, is remedied by the intrigue of each specific figure, with the opium addicted Quartermain and Nemo being shining examples of this.
‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1’ is definitely an important addition to the Moore canon, and is well worth reading if you are at all interested in graphic novels or just want to take a look at how spectacularly wrong film adaptations can really be. It is, however, a short read, though this is subsidized by the existence of further volumes, which will be reviewed at a later date.