The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I admit I saw the movie first. With that out of the way, I am going to try hard not to compare the two in my review, even though I did when I was reading. I will just add that I have no quarrels with the casting decisions all around (not including the addition of Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer). I've been wanting to read this for a while because I love mashups, and I have a particular love for Victorian genre fiction and literature. I finally bit the bullet and pulled this off my library shelves.
Here are my thoughts:
I think this book is too crass for my tastes. The violence, the characterization, and to some degree, the sexuality (although that is probably more subtly done than the other aspects). On the other hand, I did like Quatermain, Harker, and Nemo, and I sort of liked Dr. Jekyll. I loved the idea of a their teaming up for the defense of Great Britain and all that. I despised Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man. He was repulsive. His behavior showed no moral compass whatsoever, and his willingness to harm innocent people was distressing. His behavior in the girl's school was beyond the pale. I can't hold the actions of Mr. Edward Hyde against his alter ego, Dr. Henry Jekyll, but I wasn't a fan of the carnage that Hyde perpetrates, gleefully illustrated by the artist of this book, Kevin O'Neil.
Another big issue was the very racist Orientalism on display in this book. I realize that this is a realistic reflection of the time period, but I can't be too tolerant of how unrestrained it was , especially in a modern publication. The pictures of the Chinese characters seemed too much racist caricatures from some sort of propaganda pamphlet for my comfort. In contrast, Captain Nemo's character is portrayed with dignity and strength of character. It was hard to integrate the two in my thinking. I want to guess that Moore and the artist wanted us to take it tongue in cheek, but it was a bit too offensive for my tastes.
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I guess if I pick this series up again, it might be with long intervals in between. I definitely have to be in the mood for this kind of subject matter, with main leads whose behavior is disturbingly psychopathic and amoral, and the above mentioned racist content. While I can excuse Dr. Jekyll, right now, I pretty much hate Hawley Griffin and consider him a menace to society. I haven't read The Invisible Man, so it's possible he's very much in line with the character from HG Wells' novel, so I guess I'll have to read it and see what I think.
I give this three stars because there is something worthwhile about this idea, but I wasn't too thrilled about several aspects of the execution.
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