The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Kevin O’Neill
America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm $29.99
At times, a comic seems to reflect the mind of the writer a little too much, turning from an entertaining piece of fiction into allegory without the benefit of crafted metaphor or intelligent story arcs. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier is probably as close to the mind of Alan Moore as we mere mortals are likely to get, and I for one am glad that there’s only space for one in there.
Where the previous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books had some grounding in the world of accepted fiction, grafting characters from well known and respected works into a central story, and the results were superbly entertaining. Black Dossier is a different prospect altogether, again borrowing from well-known literature but leaning into a story that strays to far into the realm of the surreal.
Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means boring or dull. There are sections I was quite astounded at, such as the Carry On-esque lost play of Shakespeare, the engaging story of Orlando and England’s history with the world of Faeries. How, you may be asking yourself, does all this come together to form one coherent story. Well it doesn’t. Not really. And that’s the point. I think. Let me explain…
The Black Dossier of the main title is a fictitious collection of works by England’s most prominent writers, such as the Bard himself and the Rev. Bertram Wooster that are, a la Watchmen, interspersed within the main tale. Although the sections aren’t required reading, they do make far more sense of the whole thing. There’s plenty of text to get through though, including for pages of punctuation-free prose and segments recounting the years between the last book and the current one. As impressive as it is for Moore to ape so many different writing styles and weave them all into the story, it makes the whole of LOEG: Black Dossier heavy going at times.
The reappearance of two well-loved characters, a creative spin on England’s monarchy and the general madness of the main story makes it all reasonably entertaining but, for me, it was all too overblown and self-indulgent to be as fun as those before.
It’s worth mentioning that the book isn’t available in this country, not because of the occasionally bawdy content (next to what Garth Ennis gets away with these days it seems barely titillating) but the characters therein. The copyright issues that have kept the book from our shores stem from either one, or many, of the references made (as the likes of a womanising English spy called Jimmy show up) which are thinly disguised by hints and clever wordplay. The same issue has kept the Lost Girls from being released till next year, as the amount of time after the creator’s death that their work becomes public domain differs between here and the US. The real losers are our local comic shops, robbed of a book that most of us would gladly fork over an extra pound or two for in favour of the internet. 7/10