Each week we take a critical look at some of the books on the stands, courtesy of Big Guy's Comics (the unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com). If you publish a book that you want us to be covering, contact us. Or contact Derek. He doesn't have enough to do.

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2 #1
writer: Alan Moore
artist: Kevin O'Neill

Less than a month after shooting starts on the film adaptation of his concept, Alan Moore manages to begin the second volume in the adventures of pretty much every character ever created in late 19th century literature. For a guy who seemingly couldn't care less about publicity, Moore's timing is pretty good. And already, this second volume seems a little bit more accessible, as he's expanded his source material to include early 20th century pulps.

You still won't know who everybody is, but at least now you have a better shot at it.

Actually, the main thrust of this storyline involves H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, and most readers will have at least a passing familiarity with that. But though the established members of the League do make a cursory appearance at the end of this first chapter, Moore and Kevin O'Neill devote most of their time to the actual surface of Mars. The characters who appear there may not likely show up again, but it is apparently their actions that cause the aliens to try to conquer Earth.

Because Moore is such a skillful writer, and O'Neill completely goes beautifully nuts rendering the Martian scenes, this book would be a great read even if you didn't know who everybody was supposed to be. As a service to Fanboy Planet readers, I have done a little research and can explain at least the main references.

  • The man dressed in flowing, Arabian robes and using a flying carpet to travel across the red sands of Mars is Lt. Gullivar Jones, from a novel published in 1903 entitled Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, later retitled Gulliver of Mars when it got a lurid paperback printing in the sixties. (The title has stuck.) Written by Edwin Lester Arnold, the book has many similarities to a later classic by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

  • Gullivar meets a four-armed Martian soldier. Most likely this is Tars Tarkas, a savage green warrior who takes Gullivar to meet Tarkas' best friend, a human.

  • That human would be John Carter of Virginia, but better known as The Warlord of Mars. In the back-up text piece in the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Alan Quatermain encountered Carter in an ethereal other dimension. Both Tars Tarkas and John Carter come from a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of which, A Princess of Mars, was published in 1912. (The Princess, Dejah Thoris, is apparently dead, a fate that did not befall her in Burroughs' novels.)

  • As an in-joke, Moore has Jones and Carter discuss the ruins of an ancient Martian city that dates from the Kane Dynasty. Though legend has it that Kane came from the third planet, "Negalu," Carter thinks it merely coincidence that Michael Kane sounds like an English name. In actuality, he's the hero of a trilogy by Elric creator Michael Moorcock, Kane of Old Mars, written in tribute to Burroughs and Arnold, originally under the pseudonym of Edward P. Bradbury.

    And then come the tripods of H.G. Wells' classic novel, never rendered quite so disgustingly well as by O'Neill. Despite the arcaneness of the literary references, this first chapter is sweeping and exciting, all without really giving the title characters anything to do.

    Even with some amazing abilities on the League's side, it's going to be interesting to see how the heck they can combat the tripods and whatever other horrors lie in wait. (There's a strong implication that the "Molluscs," as Carter calls them, dabble in genetic engineering, making traitorous and monstrous soldiers out of prisoners.)

    Once again, Moore and O'Neill have hit one out of the ballpark. (Even with a back-up text piece that does shed light on earlier incarnations of the team, but has proven way too obscure for my Google searches.) We can only hope that their schedule will be more regular this time around.


    Derek McCaw




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