Monday, 1 September 2008

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

Without going to check, I think I'm right in saying that "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier" is the first graphic novel that I've read as part of thing 68. It's very good, but very different from the preceding volumes in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Whereas the earlier works are comics collected in to graphic novels, this is more of a hybrid of various things, a story about a dossier collecting certain information from down the years; the dossier is reproduced and interwoven with that is a graphic novel relating the adventures of Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain, two of the surviving members of the League.

The hook for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was showing further fantastical adventures of characters from late 19th century literature - Harker and Quatermain, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man - and placing all of these fascinating characters in a Victorian England where many of the characters and situations from 19th century literature are real. So in Volume 1 we see the League battling Fu Manchu and Moriarty, and Volume 2 has the arrival of Martian tripods.

Black Dossier is different in that the time moves forward to the late 1950s, and shows an England drastically different from the one which actually happened. The recent overthrow of the "Ingsoc" government (from 1984) as well as the contents of the Black Dossier gives a very different reality - and an utterly compelling one. A familiar British secret agent, the story of the earlier Leagues (with members including Gulliver, Prospero and the immortal Orlando) and the fascinating alternate world of 1950s England made this a real treat, totally unlike anything else I've read in a very long time (graphic novel or otherwise).

One should read the previous volumes first probably to get a handle on a few of the events referenced, but it does stand alone very well I think. Track it down and treat yourself!

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