Alan Moore launched the first volume of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in 1999 as part of his ABC Comics line, and these stories have continued through a subsequent volume, a standalone graphic novel, and now a series of three graphic novellas comprising a third volume. The series is now released by Top Shelf after Moore's breach with DC publishing, ironically prompted by circumstances surrounding the awful 2003 film adaptation of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" volume one. "1969" is the second of the three-volume "Century" series which began with "1910", published in May of 1910. "1969" continues many of the things that fans of the series have come to enjoy about it; while I appreciate much of what Moore is doing, I've always had some reservations about the League as a project, and those continue to be in evidence here. Spoilers follow.
Our story opens with ritual murder, followed by the return to Britain of what has become the League's three regular characters in the 20th century: Bram Stoker's Mina Murray, H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, and Virginia Woolf's immortal Orlando (who spends the story as a male). London is now in the midst of the swinging 60s (though given Moore's writing style, it's only moderately more sexual than the other venues we've visited), and the heirs of the evil wizard Oliver Haddo are still out to raise the Anti-Christ. It's up to our lead trio to intercept Haddo's men, all the while walking through a galaxy of obscure cultural references (obscure particularly, in many instances, to non-Britons). While past iterations of the League existed in a world drawn almost exclusively from books and plays, the mid-20th century is a multimedia age, and so a panoply of individuals from television and film put in appearances.
I increasingly find that Moore's work on the "League" fits the definition of 'sound and fury, signifying nothing'; there's a cleverness to Moore's deployment of so many characters, but there's little meaning to any of it. It's "Where's Waldo?" writ large, and for a project that has occupied so much of Moore's time over the last decade, that's a little discouraging. Moore is the greatest living comics writer and his best works are among the most interesting literature of the late 20th century. While it's silly not to allow some indulgences, this feels like it's becoming more and more inessential the further it goes along. In particular, Mina and Allan, the continuing characters, are now so removed from their original contexts that it's hard to relate them to them. On the plus side, I enjoyed Moore's brazen use of a very familiar pop culture figure (albeit in a lawyer-friendly way) as the latest avatar of Haddo.
Clever and well-illustrated, but a bit disappointing.