Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume 1.
Author: Alan Moore.
Artist: Kevin O'Neill.
Genre: Graphic novel, fiction, adventure, fantasy, alternate history.
Publication Date: 1999-2000.
Summary: London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the 20th century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos. It is an era in need of champions. Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, Dr. Henry Jekyll (with Mr Hyde never far), and Mina Murray are those champions, and together they comprise the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Recruited by the enigmatic Campion Bond, under orders from the mysterious "M," these six adventurers are pressed into service by their empire in its time of need. Now they must face the nefarious Doctor and his vile plan for world domination. But things are not entirely as they seem; other factors, cryptic and corpuscular, are also at play. A remarkable drama ensues. Allan and the Sundered Veil is a short story that serves as a prequel to the graphic novels, in which Allan Quatermain takes an extraordinary drug that transports him outside the limits of time, and sets him hurtling through strange and fantastical dimensions alongside John Carter, Randolph Carter, and H.G. Wells's "Time-Traveller," and ultimately brings him face-to-face with a Lovecraftian horror.
My rating: 8.5/10.
My review: Hailed as "The Justice League of the Victorian Era," done by Alan Moore, and starring some of my favourite literary characters from some of my favourite authors and books, I was never not going to love this. I am a big fan of the steampunk and Neo-Victorianis, in general, but it worked especially well in this case - Nemo's ship particularly was super well thought out, and very gratifying, as was Nemo himself (complex, uncompromising, intelligent, dark!) to any fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea like myself. One of the most interesting things is to see Moore's take and conclusions on some of the borrowed literary characters. With Moore's traditional cynicism, it's hardly romantic or easy - it's not something you necessarily imagined when you finished the original, or want to see, but it's painfully believable. From Allan Quatermain's ungraceful aging and drug addiction, to
♥ "There. And how is the great colonial explorer that your empire sent you here to salvage?"
"Rather a mess, I'm afraid... And I think you'll find it's our empire, Captain."
"No. The Indian mutineers may have surrendered, but I did not. If I work with the British, it is because I no longer feel even Indian. The sea, now, is my only nation."
♥ "To think I grew up reading of his exploits...! Just as I read of yours. Quatermain, however, was always the empire's favourite son. You were its nightmare."
"The winning side writer the history books, Miss Murray. But what of you? What of your history?"
♥ "I'd come to much the same conclusion. Bond believes we are his pawns. He thinks no-one observes his game. But I am no-on. I observe everything... and to play with Nemo is to play games with destruction."
♥ "Strange. He thought me... an enemy... of the state... Never reasoning... that it might suit the state... to create... it's own enemy. Shadowboxing, Bond. We're all just... shadowboxing."
♥ "'We're all just shadowboxing.' You'll recall, I trust, my words to you beneath the falls at Reichenbach? They're true, Bond. They're as true now as they were then. British intelligence created me, Bond. They recruited me while I was still at university, just as they did with you. Naturally, I excelled at espionage. When the idea arose that M15 should manufacture a crime-lord through whom they could control and monitor the underworld, I was the obvious choice. After Reichenbach I was recalled here, where I rapidly ascended to become director, despite spluttering objections from embittered toads like Mycroft Holmes. Meanwhile, able underlings like Moran maintain my criminal empire. You see, when you begin shadowboxing, sometimes the shadows become real. Isn't that odd?"
"I'm not sure I follow you."
"I mean our charades take on a life of their own. In espionage's twilight world, all shadows have substance. Am I, for example, a Director of Military Intelligence posing as a criminal... or a criminal posing as a Director of Military Intelligence... Or both?"
♥ "God. Look at them. Nemo... Nemo's worse than Hyde."
"I agree. Hyde can be persuaded. Nemo can't."
~~The League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume One.
♥ Looking into the statue's blind and bird soiled eyes it seemed to him he saw himself reflected; that same bold young pagan vision of a glorious wilderness, betrayed, like his, by age. Betrayed by time.
♥ "They said that you were dead. I had a letter from Sir Henry's brother, George, to that effect. Apparently you died at dawn three years ago in 1886, from injuries bravely received, away in some darker-than-usual corner of the darkest continent. I must say you look very well, considering."
The legendary hunter and adventurer shuffled uncomfortably and seemed to duck his head within the collar of his long and trailing coat. There was the faintest shadow of a wince accompanying his reply.
"I'd had enough. Surely you know me well enough to understand that? All of the fighting, all the glories and triumphs of my youth, it all became too loud for me somehow. Too rowdy and too wearying to someone of my years, but what was I to do? A world enthused by Mr. Haggard's somewhat overblown and generous accounts of my adventures would not suffer me to rest; would never tolerate the thought of Allan Quatermain, now grey and doddering, pruning his roses in some leaden suburb. No, I gave them what they wanted: a heroic death and an untended grave in some unreachable far corner of the world. Having provided my admirers with a suitable conclusion, I am free to live my afterlife, whatever span I have remaining, as my own."
♥ Their knuckles blanched and tight upon the frigid brass rails of the open sphere that carried them, the four men tumbled through the smears of colour and half-realized forms that edged the canvas of Eternity. Outside the regimented centuries, they rode their glimmering and peculiar brazen craft down the etheric, surging waterfall of Time itself amidst the dull boom of the pouring aeons, blinded in the spindrift spray of instants. Allan Quatermain... or, at least, his astral semblance... clung to the posterior framework of their hurtling time-boat while the rushing storm-breath of cascading ages slapped and stung against his leathered cheek. He struggled to convince himself that this was all some lunatic phantasm conjured by the occult drug taduki he'd ingested at the crumbling country seat of Lady Ragnall where his mortal form still lay in a convulsive coma, but he strived in vain. The rushing chrono-chasm and the curious chariot upon which he and his companions shot the rapids of the hours were too immediate and real to be dismissed as mere hallucination. The acclaimed explorer knew within his very soul that were he for an instant to release his grip on the cold tubing of their vessel's rim then he would fall forever, lost and screaming in Infinity. No, this was neither lotus-vision nor mirage.
♥ "I'm losing power. We're going down into the inert Time-soup that stagnates below the race of history's impulsive current. Best hang on to something tight. I have no idea how far we have to fall."
♥ It had nothing save the dimmest semblance of a self, of an identity. At rest and in its natural state it was one single facet of what might be termed a self-aware idea, a living compound symbol that existed only in the deepest fathoms of the human mind, or in the strange, unbounded immaterial oceans that those depths afforded access to. Those few explorers, be they lunatic or warlock or philosopher, who'd sought to sound these eerie, insubstantial territories and to catalogue the entities they found there, had identified the over-arcing idea-colony and had given it a name. They called it Yuggoth. They perceived it, variously, as a planet, as a god, or as a state of mind.
The myriad lesser notions which comprised this hive-like meta-being were in turn seen as subsidiary deities, who functioned both as avatars and envoys to the central, hideously animate conceptual core. These individual agents were collectively termed Lloigor, with a separate name ascribed to each, a different range of attributes. To each was allocated its own species of subservient elementals, subjugated to its alien will.
The creature that was currently enjoying the sensations of material form there in the fire-lit library of half-ruined Ragnall Hall was then, in a sense, not one but rather several overlapping gels of consciousness, of self. Somewhere within it, it was Yuggoth, the mother-complex of insidious alien ideas that drifted in the dark backwaters of the human mind and soul. Upon a lower, more immediate level it was the Lloigor named Ithaqqa, worshipped in the arctic regions as a demon of the upper air, or of the intellectual faculty in man. Most intimately, in as much as one might say that it was capable of understanding anything, it understood itself to be a nameless elemental of the kind known as wind-walkers, or sometimes as Wendigo.
In its customary habitat, which was a timeless, blissful vortex of deep, curdled indigo, its shape and form were like the astral counterpart of some repulsive gorgeous hybrid between the crustacean and the coelenterate. From its light-beaded upper canopy of jellyfish-frilled skirts depended long and trailing many-jointed legs, cased in an iridescent chitin. While at rest, the thing existed in an infinite continuum of perfect and delirious pleasure, but, at this current place and moment in the fields of space-time, it was not by any means at rest. It was at work, and active in the solid, awkward world of flesh and matter.
The body it inhabited had an unpleasant warmth; a soft, five-pointed star of rind and pulp enclosing a strange, spider-like machinery of brittle bone. An awful heaviness weighed everywhere about it in its new surroundings, and it first failed to comprehend how such a delicatem unwieldy organism might be made to move at all. While tugging randomly at nerves and muscles in the leaden darkness that surrounded it, it chanced to raise what seemed to be twin shutty=mechanisms covering the host-cteature's optic sensors. Light and form and colour flooded in, a stunning and incomprehensible deluge.
It seemed to be within an enclosed cube of perfectly transparent gas contained by flat plane surfaces of solid and material substance, overhead, below, and to all sides. Within this area were other forms, apparently inanimate, and two separate shapes, five pointed in the manner of the elemental creature's current host, that moved, and from which hateful, high-pitched noises issued. Lifting itself up as best it could upon the bone struts radiating from its central body-mass, the Wendigo began to crawl across the cold, hard surface there beneath it, as it made its way towards the chamber;s other living beings, to investigate. To see what they were made of.
♥ Below him now, if there was any such thing as below in the directionless cascade of which he was a part, Quatermain saw an image, small at first, of the familiar, book-lined, hearth-lit room where he had quaffed the bitter and transporting fumes of the exotic drug taduki, it seemed an eternity ago. By concentrating on this scene of relative stability within the furious metaphysic flow about him, Allan found that he was able to propel himself towards it, so that it appeared to swell about him, opening to enfold him in the mundane petals of that human room, that human moment.
♥ The only flaw in the explorer's artificial paradise was the persistent female voice that seemed to penetrate his reverie, demanding his attention, begging him to wake. Reluctantly, he let his eyes creak open.
She was beautiful. And yet the pursed, prim rosebud mouth, the carefully bound-up black hair all kindled in the world weary explorer's breast a pang of faint alarm, of recognition. Had he seen this face before, and if so, where? In the insensible, drug fuddled depths of Allan's mind sounded a chime of deep unease, a chill and shiver-bringing wind blown through the veil, the curtains that surround our narrow, mortal premises. He did not know this woman, did not want to face the fraught, precarious future that he sensed she represented.
"Go away," he slurred, the once more closed his eyes.
But she did not go away.
And everything occurred, according to its course.
~~Allan and the Sundered Veil.