League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The: Century #2 (1969)

Can the next instalment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen live up to our enormous expectations?

The second volume in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century trilogy follows the core trio of League characters through the late 1960s. Sadly, the passage of time means we leave Nemo’s daughter on the Nautilus, though with a grandchild of her own to look after, perhaps there’s hope for the reappearance of the Nemo clan in the final volume. As it stands, however, the League in this volume consists of just the three immortals: Dracula victim Mina Harker; Victorian explorer Allan Quatermain; and nonchalant multi-gender sex-pot Orlando.

The team is still trying to track down the cult surrounding Aleister Crowley-a-like Oliver Haddo, as it continues on its path to end the world by creating a Moonchild. To this end the cultists are making good use of 1960s mysticism, hallucinogenic drugs, free love, astral travel, and the supposedly satanic lyrics of a band vaguely resembling a late 60’s period Rolling Stones.

The supporting cast is minimal though, leaving this book feeling a bit League-lite. Moore sticks to a minimum of events, characters and locations, bringing League bickering to the forefront of the first half of the book, and very little drama until the very end. In the background there’s some shady underworld operators with their own motives for meddling in the League’s business, though their plots, while entwined, occur mostly independently.

Even Kevin O’Neill’s art, which has added more than the sum of its parts to even the lowest points in the previous volumes, doesn’t hold quite the same lustre as we’ve seen at its best. You’ve got to wonder if the bright colours of free love and the astral plane (depicted here as a blend of Lovecraft and Super Mario) simply isn’t his strength. In the final sequence we see a glimpse of the League at a punk gig in the 70s, and the monochromatic filth and fury seem much more suited to O’Neill’s natural palette.

Because this is the difficult middle act of a trilogy, we have to give the series as a whole the benefit of the doubt, but we expect fans will be disappointed. While there’s a few setups that could lead to very interesting plot threads in the finale, this is a pedestrian middle-section with few thrills, and not at all what we’ve come to expect of the League at its absolute best. Here’s hoping that the final volume of the trilogy pulls this back into something as magical as those first two books, though if this one is anything to go by, it’s got a lot of work to do.

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