With all the controversy following Allan Moore & Melinda Gebbie’s erotic Lost Girls trilogy this summer, I was driven to picking up the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen recently. To be honest, it's a book I've wished I had the discretionary funds to purchase for some time, since I was inordinately fond of the first volume. I remember some small controversy about the series when it was first appearing in serialized form revolving around the Leaguers' sexual activities, but at the time I wisely refrained from reading anything too detailed about it. Why spoil a chance at being shocked 'n' appalled?
Well, I've since given the book its first read, and, unsurprisingly, I'm not that disturbed by it. Though you can see Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill definitely getting their jollies from putting Alan Quartermain and Nina Murray in two – count 'em – two different sex scenes, the treatment of said scenes is still plenty restrained. (Though I had to wonder where Nina's breasts went to in one particular panel).
Similarly restrained is the sequence where Mister Hyde sodomizes the traitorous Invisible Man: if this'd been an old-fashioned underground comix book, we'd have probably seen ejaculate flyin' into Hawley's invisible body. Not that I necessarily would've wanted to see such a thing: it's just that at one time, such a visual bit would've practically been mandatory in an underground treatment of this subject.
Reading this volume – and noting the uproar that Moore's current collaboration with onetime undergrounder Gebbie has created – I couldn't help thinking what an extraordinary cultural moment the early underground comix movement was.
As for volume two's six-part War of the Worlds revamp, I found it less satisfying than the first League outing. Moore still has fun cramming his book with references to old-fashioned boyish adventure stories (I especially liked the blending of Burroughsian & Moorcockian Martian history in the first chapter), but few of these bits provide the same amount of satisfying pay-off that we saw in Volume One. Instead, they felt more like obligatory game playing on Moore’s part.
O'Neill's art once more played to his knack for period grotesquery, but after seeing Dr. Moreau and his manimals, I have to wonder how any of the locals could've mistaken these creatures for even remotely human. Neat Wind in the Willows visual joke in the Moreau chapter, though.
Though as engagingly inventive as the first book in the series (the path toward dispatching the Martian antagonists is – despite Hawley's insufficiently sketched out betrayal – fairly straightforward), I still had more fun with Moore & O'Neill's comic than I did the thudding movie adaptation of Volume One.
And speaking of that cinematic turkey, I recently had occasion to watch Katsuhiro Otomo's Steam Boy through Starz On Demand – and after seeing its elaborate evocations of Victorian England, I couldn't help thinking that LXG might've been so much more successful as animé than as a Sean Connery vanity production. It'd be fun to see some of O'Neill's snaggle-toothed creations animated, though I'm still not so sure about the Alan/Nina sex scenes…