The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. I recently alluded to this in a post on my other weblog, and it's only taken a week and a half to get around to booklogging it...
This is the second volume of a graphic novel following the exploits of a group of heroes in an alternate London at the turn of the 20th century. It's a marvelous conceit, collecting together Allan Quatermain, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mina Murray (formerly Harker). In the first volume, they gathered together to thwart the latest scheme of the arch-villain Moriarty, and it was all good fun. Somebody really ought to make a movie out of it.
The second volume finds them confronting an invasion from Mars, and was hinted at by the final panel of the first volume. I was eager to see what would happen in this book-- combining The War of the Worlds with the previous volume promised great fun. Alas, I was sorely disappointed in this volume.
There are a number of problems with this book, some of which were probably unavoidable. Part of the fun of the first book was in the introduction of the characters, but with the cast already mostly set, that's cut way back in this volume. There's a prologue of sorts featuring John Carter on Mars, which was fun, and the quest to defeat the Martians leads Our Heroes to another H. G. Wells character, but that's it for major literary games.
Another problem is the incredibly cynical ending. Alan Moore has never been a sweetness and light sort of person, but the resolution to the Martian problem is dark even by the standards of Watchmen. Worse yet, the main characters really don't have much to do with it at all.
The biggest problem, though, was with what it did to the characters. A good part of the fun of the first book is derived from Mina Murray's unflappable nature. When Manly Men are losing their composure all around her, she remains collected, and slaps them back into line. Sadly, something seems to have happened to her even before the action starts here. She's not the same, and it feels like a minor betrayal.
In the end, this book feels sort of like Alan Moore had a vision of being compelled to write a great number of these books, and decided to trash the milieu as thoroughly as possible to preclude that. Which is his prerogative, I suppose, but that doesn't mean I'm happy to read it.