Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone. Today we’re going to be looking at the latest compilation of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 3: Century. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, this is the third in the series and is comprised of three distinct story arcs covering three separate time periods as the League attempts to avert the coming of the apocalypse and the Antichrist. We’ll look at each in turn.
We begin in 1910 with “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” where we find a dying Captain Nemo attempting to pass command of the Nautilus to his estranged daughter who instead flees his side and goes to live in London, finding work in a dockside tavern. Arriving on the same ship is Jack MacHeath (a combination of Jack the Ripper and Mack the Knife from “Threepenny Opera”) who makes himself at home by murdering a prostitute.
Meanwhile the rest of the League, currently comprised of Mina Harker, Allan Quatermain, Orlando (based on the character from Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando: A Biography”), Thomas Carnacki (based on the fictional occult detective of the same name) and A.J.Raffles (based on the fictional cricketer and gentleman thief of the same name), are investigating Carnacki’s visions of a disaster where many people will die. This leads them to investigate the cult of a man by the name of Oliver Haddo who are seeking to bring about the end of the world through the creation of a “Moonchild”.
Our second story “Paint it Black” jumps forward to the end of the 1960s where we find members of Haddo’s cult murdering a man called Basil Thomas, lead singer of the band “Purple Orchestra”. In this we directly encounter Haddo’s spirit for the first time and learn more about what the cult has been up to since our first story. This all culminates in a ritual to allow Haddo’s spirit to inhabit a new host while at the same time there’s a huge concert going on in Hyde Park. Mina and the League attempt to intervene but are only partly successful. Mina, who had already been struggling with events, goes insane and is committed to an asylum. Without her, the League falls apart and Allan turns to drug abuse while Orlando joins the army.
Our final story “Let it Come Down” picks up in 2009 and it is clear the League has failed as not only has the Antichrist been born, the UK has become a racist, intolerant dystopia. Mina is confined in the asylum, Allan is a homeless drug addict and Orlando has returned home after a bout of insanity while serving with the army that saw him kill not only the enemy, but everyone who was with him as well, friend or foe alike. The remains of the League must somehow muster up the will and the resources to find the Antichrist and stop him. It’s heavily implied that this particular incarnation of the Antichrist is actually the main character from another rather popular series of books. We have an occult school only reachable by train, a boy with an evil mark on his forehead and a platform hidden behind a wall in Kings Cross Station. While it’s never openly stated, it’s pretty clear what’s going on here.
Looking back over the previous volumes of the LXG, it’s interesting to see how the story has developed and changed, how some characters have disappeared while others remain, and to see all the references to other things that are slipped in through background details like the “volcanoes on Mars” headline from the original series. The difficulty here is that while the original members of the League were all fairly well known and recognisable, the characters here are rather less well known and without reading the other volumes of the series, this story is confusing to say the least. New readers to the series should definitely not pick this as their entry point.
As a whole, however, we have a cohesive if occasionally confusing story that veers from the Victorian-era original League, through something more akin to Planetary, before finally arriving in the fascist present where there are no real heroes; each time period visually distinctive from the one before. Speaking of the art style, it has always been a somewhat take it or leave it affair, heavily stylised to the point of some characters being rendered as little more than silhouettes with eyes. It’s something you either like, or don’t.
Of the three main volumes so far, this one is by far the weakest, though it’s certainly not a bad read. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here when we’re presented with the fourth and final volume “Tempest“.