21 Jul 2018

Cover To Cover: LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #1

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #1
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill & Ben Dimagmaliw
IDW/Top Shelf $4.99

James R: Time is a strange thing - in comics, and in our hectic lives. I noted this back when I reviewed the middle chapter of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, and, somehow, that was seven - seven! - years ago. One of the themes of  LOEG is renewal - Moore and O'Neill have managed to keep a number of the characters alive thanks to Queen Ayesha's pool (from H. Rider Haggard's She) but beyond a plot device, it's one of the deeper themes of Alan Moore's work: timelessness.

I can distinctly recall learning about the existence of this idea in 1998 - reading a Guardian weekend guide, there was a small story about Moore starting the America's Best Comics line. Having just been dragged back into comics thanks to reading Watchmen as an undergraduate, this news seemed like manna from Heaven. I made the journey to the now sadly closed Comics Showcase in London and said, "I want all of these..." As the years have passed, LOEG has been one of the constants in my life - there may have been long gaps in between the various iterations, but it's always been there. With the publication of first issue of The Tempest, I find myself in a bittersweet mood - it's time to say farewell to a title that I've read for my entire adult life.

Diving in to the issue, it feels like a victory lap for Moore. With the publication of the astonishing Providence in 2015, he provided a brilliant counterpoint to his magnum opus Promethea - I don't think many people would have begrudged him if he had begun his retirement from comics then. But the League clearly represents unfinished business, and in this issue there's a rich sense of the past, and a feeling of renewal.
Moore combines two stories: James Bond is on the trail of Mina Murray, Orlando and Emma Knight (who are themselves looking for the Nemo family) whilst we're introduced to the Seven Stars, Moore's incorporation of some of the heroes from the Golden Age of British comics. What's particularly striking in these pages is the use of of the 'newspaper strip' style for parts of the narrative - Kevin O'Neil predictably nails the look and feel of these black-and-white three/four panel vignettes.

O'Neill's art continues to astonish full stop - back when I reviewed Century, I remarked how he had shifted the overall aesthetic and feel of the book from its first instalment, and now this series is a culmination of the different stripes and colours that LOEG has taken since 1998. Naturally, there are a slew of pop culture references too - I particularly enjoyed the appearance of Stingray's Troy Tempest, Phones, and Titan (although in true LOEG style, it doesn't end well for any of them!).

This is a book that was a joy to read for me and, inevitably, a bittersweet experience. What I've taken away from the first chapter is that stories truly are timeless - I might be able to measure my life against the progression of this series, but the characters who populate the pages, the ideas that spark off the imagination, exist beyond time. I will report in how I feel when this series reaches it's sixth and final issue, but for now, it's great to welcome back an old friend. 10/10

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