by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
How late is this discussion of a comic book? It somehow got lost in the pile, which is why it’s taken so long to get around to it, but I think that I’d deliberately forgotten it because I hadn’t enjoyed it and didn’t want to say that I didn’t enjoy an Alan Moore comic book.
I’ve really enjoyed The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, even The Black Dossier, so I was looking forward to Moore and O’Neill enjoying creative freedom at Top Shelf. This is is the first instalment of a three-part story called Century; the League comprises Mina Harker, Allan Quartermain, Orlando (presently in male form), Raffles the gentleman thief, and Carnacki. However, this incarnation seems to be rather ineffectual, which interrupts the enjoyment of the book; the team bicker and run around after prophecies and accomplish nothing. The only light is found in Orlando, who is hilarious. The other thrust to the story is Janni, daughter of Captain Nemo, who doesn’t want to take her father’s place as he nears death and escapes to London. To accompany this, there is a chorus of characters from The Threepenny Opera – at least, this is what I am led to believe; I have no idea, not being familiar with the works of Bertholt Brecht. Sometimes music can work in a comic book, although it is difficult, but I think it needs to be something with which everyone is familiar; so, for me, this really doesn’t work.
The story is pretty grim, with a depressing ending and the feeling that we’ve only seen glimpses of what the story will be about. It left me unsatisfied, despite some good parts. O’Neill does a good job, if you can handle his oddly angular style, with some fun cameos hidden among the backgrounds; I liked Norton, ‘The Prisoner of London’, even if he did speak gibberish; and the action was exciting stuff. But, even after rereading it to write about it, I didn’t feel any connection to the story or the characters or the end product, something I can’t remember ever happening before with a writer whose body of work has meant so much to me.