League 2009 – a reluctant Antichrist with a familiar story awaits….
By Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
“….the narrative draws to its cataclysmic close in London 2009. The magical child whose ominous coming has been foretold for the past hundred years has now been born and has grown up to claim his dreadful heritage. His promised aeon of unending terror can commence, the world can now be ended starting with North London, and there is no League, extraordinary or otherwise, that now stands in his way. The bitter, intractable war of attrition in Q’umar crawls bloodily to its fifth year, away in Kashmir a Sikh terrorist with a now-nuclear-armed submarine wages a holy war against Islam that might push the whole world into atomic holocaust, and in a London mental institution there’s a patient who insists that she has all the answers”
After all, Century: 1969 did end with Mina Murray having a drug induced psychotic breakdown and occultist Oliver Haddo’s noxious little spirit wandering off in the body of a certain teacher of “occult studies at a school up north” …..
(“first name’s Tom, my middle name’s a Marvel, and my last name’s a conundrum”… Shhh… you know who…. from League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969)
The fact he then walked through a wall just before Platform 10 at Kings Cross rather gave the game away didn’t it?
Are you seriously telling me you thought Moore wasn’t going to use Rowling’s famous boy wizard in some way? And seeing as the whole series has been chattering away about the magical child, the Antichrist, that Oliver Haddo and his group have been so keen to see born, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to figure out exactly what plans Moore had for little Harry.
(And here’s you know who again…. but who could he be talking to? League Century 2009)
Like I said with the review of Century 1969, it all smacks slightly of convenient collect all the magicians together-ness, and here I can’t get over the feeling of Moore and O’Neill simply being naughty and deliberately courting the headlines.
But never mind, I was really looking forward to seeing how it would all play out, having seen Century 1969 completely reaffirm my belief in how bloody great League is.
In fact, when it arrived on the doormat earlier this week, I didn’t even make it to the sofa, just sat on the table by the door, flicking through it at first, shoes still on, kettle unboiled, until I turned back to the start and simply sat there reading it. Managed a third of the way through before realising I wasn’t leaving the room until I’d finished it. Relocated to the chair, read the lot in one thrilling sitting. There’s rarely a better recommendation than “couldn’t put it down“.
(Early on, the war rages in Q’Mar [West Wing], whilst a very Action Man looking Orlando chats with Colonel Cuckoo [nope, that one passed me by – anyone?], before International Rescue’s military branch picks him/her up in T-1o to return to Blighty)
One thing that is immediately obvious is the relative lack of cultural referencing going on here, certainly compared with previous volumes. Yes, we have Bond et al, and that wizard connection, and there’s certainly familiar faces and ideas and fictions on practically every page. But with previous volumes 1910 and 1969, it was practically every panel, and I’ve already discussed at length the problems inherent to weighing down each page in a “Where’s Wally” for the literate reader to guess, question, and research every single face and feature in every single panel of every single page.
The obvious conclusion to reach is that dealing with the more up to date stuff was a little trickier, partly through knowledge (Moore’s notoriously modern-life averse in his own way), partly through that everpresent threat of annoying the litigious souls involved in modern cultural and fictional modern life.
Somewhat hypocritically, given my criticism of the overly referenced element of League thus far, I have to admit to the smallest frisson of disappointment at not having so much work to do in each panel, but the huge benefit is that the concluding chapter of Century fair rattles along, the pace of modern life reflected in the pages of Moore’s modern fiction; dark, dismal, befittingly austere for the times.
We’ve had the slow destruction of the League through a century of misadventures, and here we’re at the very lowest point; Mina a basket case it seems, Orlando barely functioning in a leadership role completely unsuited for the weakest member of Mina’s little gang, and poor old Alan back on the smack. Hardly the best team to be sent into battle for The Blazing World and Duke Prospero…..
(No, the old firm just isn’t doing so well…..but Norton may hold the key to it all)
So all the way through, as we see the team pulled back together, find out just how Haddo’s boy Antichrist has changed, it proves to be a bloody great conclusion. If I had to pick at it, I’d have to acknowledge a gnawing feeling of anti-climax at the ending. But unless Moore was going to genuinely unveil the AntiChrist and have him destroy the bloody universe, what should I really have expected. That aside though, it does pretty much everything right, delivering a satisfying end to the series, with enough wriggle room here to keep the whole thing going, when Moore and O’Neill decide it’s time to return (and I definitely hope they do).
And once I’d read the thing on its own a couple of times, I did what I promised myself I’d do…. sat down with the entire League saga to date, and had a thoroughly entertaining wallow in Moore and O’Neill’s magnificent epic. Seriously, Century 2009 is almost everything I was looking for as a concluding part, resolving the series in a satisfying, if necessarily anti-climactic fashion. But when taken as a whole, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen really does seem to be the series that keeps on giving, new insights guaranteed with every read, a series that gets better and better with age.