BOOK REVIEW: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 1) by Alan Moore

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

For those unfamiliar with this series or the movie featuring Sean Connery, this graphic novel assembles a team of heroes from 19th century science fiction and adventure novels. Specifically, the team includes: Mina Harker (of Bram Stroker’s Dracula), Allan Quatermain (of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mine series), Captain Nemo (of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and other Jules Verne novels), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel featuring their names), and Hawley Griffin (of the H.G. Wells novel, The Invisible Man.) The team’s principle nemesis is Professor James Moriarty of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series.

Interestingly, this book follows the same general plot progression as the movie, but is much different in tone, settings, and character details. The plot progression of which I refer is that the team is assembled (with no small amount of mutual animosity) and they bond into a team as they face a grandiose threat of steampunk industrialization run amok. That plot progression aside, you’ll find an entirely different story otherwise. First, those who favor gender equality will appreciated that Mina Harker is in a leadership role in this volume, the role played by Quatermain in the movie. (That being said, this isn’t a group of individuals who take readily to being led.) Second, those who like darker, grittier tales will find this book more appealing than the movies. Allan Quatermain is found by Harker wasted in an opium den. Griffin is captured after having moved into a girl’s school to use his invisibility to lecherous advantage and the head mistress of said school is decidedly dominatrix like. I generally liked the grittier tone better, though it was hard to reconcile Griffin’s abhorrent behavior with heroism—anti-heroes are a challenge, particularly one who can disappear at will. Third, the team in the book is smaller and more manageable, with the movie having taken on two more characters (Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer.) Finally, the book doesn’t get around so much. The movie features at least four major settings—not counting the high seas, but the book takes place mostly in Victorian London.

You don’t have to have read all the classic works from which the characters derive to get the story, but it does make it a little more fun. (Yes, I realize that I’m using “classic” for books–some of which–were considered the pulp fiction of their day. However, if your book is still in print after 100 years, I’d say you deserve the status and respect.) Those who’ve read the books will get some subtleties that aren’t critical to the story but are kind of nifty. That being said, don’t expect the characters to match their originals perfectly. The novels covered are wide-ranging, some rely on supernatural elements and others are more realistic, some are futuristic while others reflect the times more accurately. One can’t bring all these individuals into one world and have them be exactly as they were in their original domains.

There are some extra features at the end including a short story featuring a time traveling Allan Quatermain and some art from the series.

I’d recommend this book for those who read comics and graphic novels—especially if they’ve read the stories of at least a few of the 19th century characters. (If you haven’t read any of the novels, you should probably go back and hit some classics before you read anything else. Just my opinion.) It’s an intriguing concept, and it’s done well.

The movie trailer is here.

View all my reviews

READING REPORT: February 13, 2015

Welcome to a special Friday the 13th edition of the Reading Report. What’s so special about it? If you’re not deluded by superstition, then not much. If you are superstitious, reading this post may cause you to suffer a plague of locusts (or whatever plagues your particular geographic area.)

 

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the illiterate ninnies, we can get down to discussing books.

 

I finished two books this week–one nonfiction and one fiction. I’ll be posting book reviews within the next couple weeks.

 

The nonfiction book was called Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. The author’s intriguing and controversial thesis is that yoga as it’s practiced in studios around the world today nothing to do with traditional Indian yoga, but, instead, owes it’s existence to European calisthenics and bodybuilding systems and the Indians that borrowed from them. I didn’t find the author’s argument compelling for a number of reasons that I’ll get into in my review. This isn’t to suggest that I’m certain he’s wrong. He may be right, but the way he constructed his argument left a great deal of room for doubt.

 

TLEG_Vol1

The fiction book was a graphic novel entitled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 1). For those of you who haven’t seen the movie featuring Sean Connery, this comic book gathers together a team of protagonists from 19th century science fiction and adventure novels. The team consists of Mina Harker (of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Allan Quatermain (of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines), Captain Nemo (a Jules Verne recurring character), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson’s title characters), and Hawley Griffin (of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man). One needn’t have read all those classic stories to follow this book, but being a fan of 19th century tales of the fantastic definitely makes it more fun. The story depicted in this volume has nothing to do with the movie plot.

 

mantraSherlockHolmes

I’m more than halfway through a couple of books that I mentioned in earlier Reading Reports, they are Why Do People Get Ill? and The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes.  I read chapters 7 through 9 of the former book, which had to do with the expression of symptoms, the heart as a symbol and that symbol’s expression in illness, and the impact of mother’s experiences on infants and children. In the latter book, Holmes has arrived in Tibet, and the plot thickens. The author is Tibetan, and so has some unique insights. However, some chapters advance the story with action, and others are almost like travelogue.

 

I’m still early into reading two books that I’ve previously mentioned. The first is Zen and the BrainIn this book I’ve transitioned out of the part explaining Zen and the author’s experience of that tradition, and am now into the part that lays down the basic neuroscience. While the author writes in a readable style, for a neuroscientist, this is still challenging reading because of its scientific nature and the complexity of the brain. However, the chapters I read recently both raise some fascinating questions and provide useful information. The chapter I just finished dealt in part with the neurochemistry of addiction. I like that this book is divided up into short chapters. This is beneficial for taking in such complicated information. I need frequent think-breaks to ruminate on what I’ve read.

 

pyjamagame

The second is The Pyjama Game. After a slow start, the last two chapters have contained some fascinating information. One of these chapters dealt with the history of jujutsu, particularly as Japan transitioned from medieval to modern. The other chapter outlined Kanō Jigorō‘s development of judō.

 

I bought three books this week.

 

The first is entitled Healing Moves, and is by a married couple consisting of a fitness writer and a cardiologist. This book addresses a topic that is a prevailing theme in my nonfiction reading as of late, which is what movement, exercise, and physical activity can do to improve one’s health (not just one’s fitness.)

HealingMoves

 

The second book is Greatest Ever Boxing Workouts.  This book presents information about what boxers like Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather do to prepare for fights. It’s a follow-up to an earlier book that included fighters like Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones Jr.

BoxingWorkouts

 

Finally, I just got a short story collection on Kindle Daily Deal the other day entitled Lovecraft’s Monsters.  This isn’t a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories, but rather is an anthology of stories inspired by Lovecraft’s work.

LovecraftsMonsters