Sunday, June 20, 2010


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, collects the six-issue run of the second League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, originally published in 2002 and 2003. In 1898, immediately following the events of the first volume, the League must contend with invaders from Mars.

Moore puts his borrowed cast through H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, with added elements cobbled from a number of places, most notably other Wells stories and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edwin L. Arnold, and C. S. Lewis. It’s not an original story, but it has a coherence and urgency not present in Volume 1’s plot. In any event, it’s more interesting.

What Moore does with Hyde in this volume is what makes it worth reading. In Volume 1, Hyde was little more than a Hulk-style weapon of destruction. Here we see a compelling, sinister persona bursting with internal conflict. But the other characters are much the same, and relatively flat: Nemo is contrary, Quatermain still never has anything to do, and so forth (Mina’s libertine behavior comes as no surprise at all).

While it appears at first glance identical, O’Neill’s art here is improved from Volume 1. Perhaps he’s paying more attention to background detail. His work on Mars and the Martians is quite good, and the first issue in particular looks fantastic.

This volume also includes Moore’s six-part “The New Traveller’s Almanac,” which expands the League world and reads like a declassified government document. It’s not exactly compelling reading, but it’s more interesting than the Quatermain short story in Volume 1.

While this volume largely improves upon the original, I still have my doubts about the premise. The story is fine, if unoriginal, but there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t have been as good or better with original characters. At least in that case Moore wouldn’t feel obligated to cram all and sundry literary characters into the work regardless of whether they fit (Moore’s inclusion of Dr. Moreau and his menagerie is downright painful). And Moore’s storytelling here still isn’t at the level we’re used to seeing from him; the Invisible Man plot here particularly feels arbitrary and ill-thought-out.

On the whole, though, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2 is an entertaining comic and a sequel that improves on the original.