The Black Dossier
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
The latest installment in Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very, very dense. It's also very rewarding. Anyone who's read and liked the previous books will find plenty to enjoy in the latest offering, though one might not expect as much prose and various non-comic aspects from the original graphic novel.
The previous two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic series have followed a group of individuals from literature: Mina from Dracula, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Allan Quartermain, game hunter from King Solomon's Mines and its sequels and prequels. Not all of those characters appear in the latest book, given events from the previous series, and much of this story actually explores other incarnations of the group, boasting different big-named heroes and villains, from different times and from other countries. Most notable of these new characters is Orlando, an immortal character with the ability to change sex, who appears throughout this book in various stories.
The Black Dossier is a book itself, within this story, containing classified information that recounts much of the League's history. In the opening chapter of this graphic novel, The Black Dossier is stolen, and the thieves read through the book as they try to make a clean getaway. The portions of the LOEG graphic novel that are actually comics are the portions that center around the thieves and their journey. The rest of the book is The Black Dossier itself that they are reading, which isn't comics, but are various other forms of storytelling. From postcards to prose to comic strips to maps, everything is fair game. It's all very fun to read, but like I said before, it's very dense. It takes a long time to wade through, but it rewards patience with some great little stories told through different means, recounting small incidents that the League experience, or giving a big piece of the whole. The one portion of the The Black Dossier stories that was pretty hard to get through was the pulp novel portion with its difficult, rambling, misspelled structure. But I don't think I really got hung up anywhere else, and really enjoyed portions that I didn't expect to, particularly the lush 3-D concluding pages that you have to use the 3-D glasses included with the book, to experience. At that point it sort of turned into something really philosophical that reminded me more of Promethea than anything.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier is very well-done and I really enjoyed the variety of ways to read the exploits of the team. I can see why some people may have a problem with this book, particularly if they like their comics confined to comics. The book within a book aspect to this title provided for a cheat that I myself really enjoyed. I don't mind when creators blur the lines between comics and other mediums - it makes for an interesting reading experience if anything, and I think that this work from Moore and O'Neill set out to do something extraordinarily ambitious, to great effect. A