Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tripods: Actually More Stable Than Bipods

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Kevin O'Neill (2002-2003; collected 2003): The second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen begins a few days before the first volume ended, on Mars, as an army of fictional Martians and emigre humans (most notably John Carter and his Martian allies from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian books and one of the Martian races from C.S. Lewis' John Ransom trilogy) push the blood-sucking, heat-beam-wielding 'Martians' of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds off Mars forever. Conditionally, they succeed -- but the 'Martians', who are not originally from Mars, launch their escape vessels towards Earth.

This second volume has a structure imposed upon it by Moore's choice of The War of the Worlds -- the Martian invasion of Great Britain proceeds pretty much as described in the Wells novel, though now we observe much of it from a new perspective, that of the League and the government trying to stop the invaders. Captain Nemo's revamped Nautilus submarine turns out to be a potent weapon against the Martians at first, but soon things become quite dire, as they do in the original novel.

Can Mina Harker and Alan Quatermain track down a mysterious scientist who perhaps has the only weapon that can defeat the invaders? Will one of the members of the League betray them? Will the Invisible Man discover that Mr. Hyde's bestial super-senses allow the beast-man to see the Invisible Man? Will Alan and Mina finally consummate their relationship? Will we get to see why Mina has hidden her neck within a scarf for nearly two whole volumes? Will Mr. Hyde get to dance while singing a jaunty tune?

Along with these pressing questions and some crackerjack cartooning from Mr. O'Neill -- Martian tripods have never looked so weirdly alien and baroque, nor Mr. Hyde so terrible and necessary -- comes a nearly 50-page prose piece on the historical geography of the world the League inhabits.

We learn more about previous Leagues (especially the ones led by Prospero and by Lemuel Gulliver), have our first meeting with soon-to-be major player Orlando (from Virginia Woolf), and visit the fictionally derived landscape of the League's world, in which the locations and characters and creatures of Herman Melville, Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Jonathan Swift, Daniel DeFoe, Mary Shelley, and hosts of others all share the same world. Lots of fun, lots of rewardingly heavy lifting. Highly recommended.

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