J’s Take on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill and some other people has a really good premise. England? In the 1800s? Well-known fictional characters forming a band of super-agents for the British government? What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, the execution leaves much, much, much, MUCH to be desired. I recall being intrigued by the movie, and liking it fairly well. Though it did have problems, even if I can’t now necessarily put my finger on the problems. Well, the comic/graphic novel has a lot of problems.

Plot: Wilhelmina Murray (whoever she is) takes on the mission of assembling a team. First she tracks down Quartermain (whoever he is.. I gather some sort of long-lived, possibly immortal, dead? adventurer dude) and together with Captain Nemo, they get Dr. Jekyll and the Invisible Man. Then they set out to find some substance called ‘cavorite’ that’s some anti-gravity substance. And if they don’t retrieve it, the evil Chinese will take over the world. Or something.

First of all, I’m supposed to like any of these characters? The Invisible Man is a murderer and a rapist, and not even a reformed one. Hyde is also a murderer and at least attempted rapist, and Jekyll is a big ball of whiny angst. Quartermain only seems useful for beating people up. Captain Nemo just shows off his cool submarine, hangs out with Ishmael for some reason, and makes a point of letting everyone know he’s Indian and Hindi. And the chick? She’s the purported leader, but the first sign of the ‘men’ not listening to her, she falls apart and starts whining about it.

More on ‘Miss Murray’. I don’t know where she’s from or who she is, or if she’s an original character. She wears a mysterious scarf around her neck. My first thought what that she was hiding an Adam’s apple. I don’t know why that thought occurred to me first, when the more obvious explanation is she’s hiding vampire bites. This is never explained in this volume, and she never exhibits any vampire attributes. Which is a freaking shame, because other than hitting one person, she’s pretty useless in a fight.

She gets almost raped by ‘Arabs’ when trying to fetch Quartermain, and would’ve been (presumably) if he hadn’t saved her. Then she dresses up as prostitute as bait, gets kidnapped by Hyde, and certainly the implication is that he was going to do ‘foul deeds’ to her if given half the chance. Even Quartermain forces a kiss on her as part of their supposed cover as a married couple.

But it doesn’t end with her. We also get a lovely interlude in a girls’ school. A school which goes so far as to put Castle Anthrax to shame. Someone equates it to a ‘bordello’, but it’s more like an S&M dungeon. So I’m entirely unclear by the end of it as to whether the girls are supposed to be innocent virgins, sex-crazed lesbians, or what. But the Invisible Man’s been raping the girls left and right and knocked a couple of them up. But it’s okay, because they all think it’s the Holy Ghost doing it and so, really, they can’t mind that much, right?


I think this is supposed to be a parody of old-timey boys’ own adventure comics, but it really reads more like an homage. Never minding their tongue-in-cheek introduction “…let us not forget the many serious, morally instructive points there are within this narrative: firstly, women are always going on and making a fuss. Secondly, the Chinese are brilliant, but evil.” As if that forgives the racism, sexism, and misogyny they go on to perpetrate within the pages of the book.

Also, it’s not funny. I can see points where it’s trying to be. But it’s not.

The artwork does not appeal to me, but didn’t turn me off particularly, except for the random bug eyes. Particularly amongst the women. They’ll go bug-eyed. For no reason I can see.

To round it off, there’s a short story at the back about Quartermain. It goes on and on for pages, written in very small type, two columns. It’s illustrated, but that barely breaks up the text. I asked K if she’d read it. I was hoping that she hadn’t. So that I could skip it. But she had! So I couldn’t. I did, however, skim.

Here’s how it starts:

With thin, milk light from a shaved quarter moon at play on the map-parchment of his face, the dead man made his way among the dark topiary, overgrown and monstrous, in those abandoned ornamental gardens sprawled out among the castle ruins. Turrets fallen to a scree of brick and warped spines of collapsing battlement lay abject and senescent in the lunar sickle’s cool, diluted silvering, so that even the dead man caught his breath: he had not thought the place to be so changed since his demise.

And it goes on like that. And on. And on. At the start of each chapter (and there’s 6 of them) we get a recap of what’s gone before. So, presumably, each chapter was included in each volume of the original publication of this 6-comic collection. It would’ve been slightly less annoying to read in those chunks. Slightly slightly.

What’s the story? Quatermain goes to some old chick who has a mystical African woman serving her. He gets doped up on ‘taduki’, which I can only think of as a drugged badger, and goes on an acid trip. On this astral plane, he meets Fry and his great-nephew The Professor. I mean, Randolph Carter and his ancestor, John. And they meet up with the Time Traveler from The Time Machine. And I don’t know, they tool around on the Time Machine until the Cthulhu mythos intrudes on the whole thing and I lose the last ounce of good-will I had towards this book.

Zero stars. Seriously. ZERO STARS. Out of.. it doesn’t even matter how many. Is 0 out of 100 really worse than 0 out of 10? Then 0 out of a googelplex.

Though I am tempted to watch the movie and see if it’s actually worse than I remember.


10 thoughts on “J’s Take on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1”

  1. I haven’t read my review so I’m going to refrain from getting into a lot of it here, but Mina Murray is from Dracula. So you were on the nose about the vampire bites thing.

  2. Also, while I read the after story, I obviously didn’t find anything in particular about it to comment on. Portrayal of women = still bad. Characters from books I wasn’t especially interested in = still there.

  3. Also, and this is a mistake I used to make all the time:

    Allan Quatermain = action adventure hero from Haggard’s books.

    Alan Quartermain = character on General Hospital

  4. Man, that Quatermain short story made my eyes glaze over in the worst way. I’m afraid I did even less than skim it.

    I definitely liked this more than you did, though it’s interesting to see why you hated it. :)

  5. You should have read it and shared my pain!!!! Oh wait, I did mostly skim it, didn’t I? Well, it was still painful.

    Maybe if the part of Cthulhu had been played by Hello Kitty.

  6. I read the whole thing, but I am so not up on Lovecraft that I couldn’t figure out what the heck the thing was from. It was clear it was from -something-.

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