Good afternoon, Scratchi-verse!
I’ve been writing for close to six years now. One of the common axioms that frustrated me in my early years as a writer, and still does today, is “there’s nothing new under the sun”. I’ve heard this from people I really respect and admire, and, to tell you the truth, it scares me. As a writer, it boils down to this. If everything’s been done before, why am I here? Isn’t my job as a writer to come up with new things, original ideas that never make people think the same way that they do after the conclusion? It was a bit of an existential writing crisis, which in retrospect was probably not good for my 8-year-old blood pressure. Even so, I’ve continued to look for an answer to these questions practically every day. I’ve finally found one, in today’s comic, that I think is satisfying. I’m sure you’ll agree, in fact, that it’s really quite extraordinary.
Frankly, if the name Alan Moore needs any introduction, you shouldn’t be reading this blog. For those who don’t know, however, Alan Moore is a British comic writer, known for such works as the “best comic ever”, AKA Watchmen, From Hell, Top 10, and Tom Strong. He, along with Frank Miller, is credited for bringing about the “Dark Age” of super-gritty and super-realistic comics that some would argue we’re still firmly in today. He’s considered, by many people, to be the single best modern comic writer, and perhaps the best of all time. Alan is also known for his crazy, off-the-wall, and totally original concepts. Concepts like a Victorian-era team of superheroes composed of literally EVERY fictional character ever created.
After the events of the novel “Dracula”, the titular character’s wife, Mina Murray, has just come off of a bitter and bloodthirsty divorce. The plot, not content with having her happily roam around 19th century England, has her run into the elusive Mr. Bond, an operative of the British Government. He’s not exactly there to collect taxes and make small talk. Rather, he’s there to recruit the maiden Murray on a covert operation: gather some of literature’s greatest characters in order to retrieve the gravity-defying element of Cavorite from the Chinese crime mogul, Fu-Manchu. However, not all of the recruits are eager to aid in this task, such as the psychopathic and extremely perverse Invisible Man, Hawley Griffen, or the opium-addicted wildlife hero, Allan Quartermain, or their incredulous sub pilot, Captain Nemo. Rounded out by the docile but murderous duo of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the team must criss-cross the very confines of fiction to save Britain from it’s foreign oppressor. As the mystery grows deeper, however, the real enemy may prove to come from within.
This series, even having only read one volume, proves to be like nothing else in comics today. These characters, while coming from works published about a century before most of us were born, appear fresh and vibrant. There’s not a single character in this book who I didn’t hunger to see again the minute they went off-panel. The tragedy of Dr. Jekyll will have you hard-pressed to not feel sorry for him, even as you see his alter-ego graphically kill room-fulls of people. Mina Murray is the rare woman in comics who’s written well, originally, and not objectified, growing independently from her higher-profile, sharp-fanged ex-husband. Captain Nemo, who could’ve easily been regulated into the role of racist period pastiche, is one of the only characters to make a complete 180 in character arc as the story progresses. The Invisible Man is every bit as haunting in this comic as he is in H.G. Wells’ original novel, and yet Moore gives him a dry, biting humor that adds a lot to the already-great character. (But seriously, the immaculate conception was gross, guys. We didn’t need to see that!) Even Allan Quatermain, who initially showed every sign of being a boring author-insertion character, grows into something truly special by the final pages. In an age where many comic book heroes prove to be interchangeable plot pieces, it’s refreshing to see characters who I actually care about.
The great writing is matched by, in my opinion, even better art. I’d never heard of Kevin O’Neil before reading this comic, but it’s evident in every panel how much work he put into this. The characters are excellently-drawn in all manner of situations, and I never had trouble discerning them, even in incredibly chaotic battle scenes. If you’re a fan of steampunk art, this is a must-buy, if only for O’Neil’s excellently-crafted, painstakingly-designed steampunk airships. The concluding battle between Bond’s balloon, Mr. M’s airship, and Fu-Man-Chu’s army of battle-kites is a terrifying and grandiose sight to behold, and is easily the best fight scene that I’ve read in a comic this year. This comic, however, is not without its problems, namely the pacing. The first third of the book is a slow assembly of the team that takes much too long to gain significant momentum. Once it does, however, there’s not a chance in Hell that you won’t enjoy this it.
….Speaking of Hell, does anyone smell smoke?
Seriously, Satan? What is it THIS time? Don’t tell me you found out about the rosebush. I swear, I just really had to go, and it was RIGHT THERE-
Punished? What do you mean?
So I don’t get punished? Mathematical!
What, are you going to make me watch Jersey Shore or something?
So, what’s my punishment, you old coot?
WHAT? This….this can’t be happening! I…I can’t do it!
(Tune in next week, dear reader, for my grand return: a review of the monstrosity called “LXG”, starring Sean Connery. See you then!)