The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century
|The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century|
Early cover art for Century #1, by O'Neill
|Publisher||Top Shelf Productions (US)
Knockabout Comics (UK)
|Publication date||May 2009 – June 2012|
|Number of issues||3|
|Main character(s)||Mina Murray
A. J. Raffles
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century is the third volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill. Co-published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics in the US and UK respectively, Century was published in three distinct 72-page squarebound comics.
The third volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a 216-page epic spanning almost a hundred years and entitled 'Century'. Divided into three 72-page chapters, each a self-contained narrative to avoid frustrating cliff-hanger delays between episodes, it takes place in three distinct eras, building to an apocalyptic conclusion occurring in the present, twenty-first, century. The characters and themes thread through all three episodes, in which the characters of Mina Harker, Allan Quatermain and Orlando feature prominently, alongside W. Somerset Maugham's Aleister Crowley-analogue Oliver Haddo and Iain Sinclair's London-bound time traveller Andrew Norton, from Slow Chocolate Autopsy.
Moore has stated that the move from DC Comics/WildStorm/America's Best Comics has been liberating, and that the work on Century is "as if we feel freed from the conventions of boys' adventure comics," allowing for a work that is "a lot more atmospheric," building slowly to "a tremendously bloody climax."
Chapter 1. What Keeps Mankind Alive?
In 1910, twelve years after the first and second volumes, Captain Nemo is on his death-bed on Lincoln Island. He asks his estranged daughter, Janni Dakkar, to take his name and become the new captain of the Nautilus after his death, but she refuses and leaves his side. She stows away on a passing ship, which goes to London, and she takes up employment at a wharf side hotel under the name Jenny Diver. The charismatic Jack MacHeath, portrayed here as a combination of MacHeath (the protagonist of The Threepenny Opera) and real-life serial killer Jack the Ripper, arrives in London on the same ship and immediately begins murdering prostitutes again.
Allan Quartermain and Mina Murray continue to work for the British Government as members of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, along with new members Orlando, Thomas Carnacki and A.J. Raffles. Carnacki has visions of bloodshed on the waterfront, and a secret cabal of magicians plotting the creation of a Moonchild destined to bring forth the end of the world. Mina believes these visions may be connected to the upcoming coronation of King George V, and the League's director Mycroft Holmes advises them to investigate both cases, suggesting MacHeath will be responsible for the bloodshed. While tracking down one of the men from the vision, Orlando, Allan and Carnacki encounter the circle of magicians and confront them about their plans. Their leader, Oliver Haddo, claims the vision is either inaccurate or a future event yet to happen, so Carnacki has inadvertently given the magicians a crucial piece of information they need to create the Moonchild. Meanwhile, Mina and Raffles consult Andrew Norton, a time traveller bound by the confines of London. He speaks in riddles hinting at the Harry Potter series, the Iraq war, and the July 7 bombings, but otherwise offers little help. As he vanishes to another time, he promises Mina they will meet again in 1969.
Janni is raped by the drunken patrons of her hotel, and is later aided to her room by Suky Tawdry (another character from The Threepenny Opera), who refers to her as "Pirate Jenny". Distraught and eager for revenge, Janni decides to fulfil her father's dying wishes and fires a flare to summon the Nautilus, which is docked nearby. The next day, MacHeath is brought to the gallows to be hanged without trial, as Mycroft is worried a trial might bring to light the 14th Earl of Gurney's involvement in the original Jack the Ripper murders. As MacHeath sings his final plea from the gallows, the Nautilus, now painted black and with Nemo's skull nailed to the forecastle, emerges and destroys every building on the waterfront. The crew descend to loot, murder and rape while Janni, accepting her role as captain, orders that the hotel patrons be killed slowly. While the League arrive to fend off the crew, Mycroft receives a message from the Earl of Gurney confessing to all the Ripper crimes, and MacHeath is released. Amidst the chaos, Mina runs into Janni, who recognises her. Janni mentions her father had nothing but bad things to say about Mina, and therefore she respects her. As she departs in the Nautilus, she invites Mina to join the crew should she ever decide to forsake government work. Mina berates the League for their actions, while MacHeath and Suky sing and dance to a modified version of What Keeps Mankind Alive? in the background.
Chapter 2. Paint It Black
In 1969, around eleven years after the events of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, members of Oliver Haddo's cult murder Basil Fotherington-Thomas, a member of the rock band Purple Orchestra. Mina, Orlando and Allan have spent the years since the events of The Black Dossier on Lincoln Island, but the sorcerer Prospero summons them back to Britain to investigate Basil's murder. The Nautilus drops the League off at the White Cliffs of Dover, and in their investigations they discover Haddo’s spirit is possessing Kosmo Gallion (from The Avengers episode “Warlock”), and he intends to transfer yet again to the body of Terner, Purple Orchestra's lead singer. The League's encounter with the mysterious Andrew Norton has numerous cryptic warnings that are difficult to discern. He also says that by the time they reunite in 2009 it will be too late.
Terner holds a concert at Hyde Park in honor of Basil (which parallels the real-world death of Rolling Stones member Brian Jones and subsequent Hyde Park tribute concert) in which he reads poetry and sings a song which resembles "Sympathy for the Devil". Mina, Orlando and Allan attempt to stop the ritual of the transfer from occurring but Mina realizes the actual ritual is occurring at Gallion's shop. Mina drops Tadukic Acid Diethylamide 26, and meets Haddo on the astral plane. Haddo overpowers Mina, though he reveals that his possession of Terner will not effect his planned birth of the antichrist. Carter meanwhile kills Gallion. With his plan gone awry, he is forced to enter the body of Tom Riddle (of the Harry Potter series). As Mina comes down from her trip, she is driven mad by bats that remind her of Dracula, and is taken away in an ambulance. Riddle meanwhile leaves through King's Cross through Platform 9 3/4 to Hogwarts.
Eight years later, in 1977, Allan and Orlando have still not reunited with Mina, who was their only link to the Blazing World. In a club where the band Zuki and the Tawdries play the song "Immoral Earnings (In The U.K)" Orlando and Allan sulk. Now female and sporting a mohawk Orlando grows tired of Allan who has succumbed to his previous addictions to drugs (even attempting to pawn Excalibur) and leaves Allan, planning to join the Army once she is a man again.
Chapter 3. Let It Come Down
In 2009, the currently-male Orlando is serving in the British Army, and is stationed in Q'mar. He receives a medal after apparently surviving a massacre, but he privately confesses to a fellow immortal soldier that he actually committed the massacre himself in a moment of violent madness. Returning home to London, which has become a dystopia rife with poverty and depression, Orlando becomes female again. Prospero appears before her in a vision, scolding her for the League's failure to stop Haddo in 1969 and revealing the Antichrist has already been born. In despair, Orlando goes to the British Intelligence headquarters in Vauxhall to speak with Emma Night, the current M, and offers her the secret to immortality in exchange for Mina's whereabouts. As she goes home, Orlando runs into a now homeless Allan, but he panics and flees before she can talk to him.
Mina is staying in a psychiatric hospital, where she is hopelessly drugged and confused. Orlando retrieves her from the hospital and takes her off the drugs, and as her memories return she remembers they are due to meet Andrew Norton again. They try to convince Allan to help them, but he rejects them and claims he no longer wants to live a heroic life. When Norton reappears, he guides Mina and Orlando to King's Cross Station, which he metaphysically describes as a nexus of fiction. They enter the hidden Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and find the wreckage of the Hogwarts Express full of decaying corpses. Norton explains the train is operated magically, and its track leads to the school the Antichrist came from, but he himself is unable to join them.
The train travels across the countryside, eventually stopping at the ruins of Hogwarts school (which is never openly named in the story). As Mina and Orlando investigate the ruins, a flashback shows the events leading up to the school's destruction. As a baby, the Antichrist (heavily implied to be Harry Potter but never referred to by name) was scarred with the mark of the beast on his forehead, and throughout his adolescence, Haddo tried to manipulate him into accepting his destiny by staging a series of adventures set in the school and portraying an arch-nemesis for him to fight. However, the revelation of his true destiny drove the Antichrist insane and he went on a destructive rampage, destroying the school and killing all the staff and pupils. Upon returning to London, Prospero urges Mina and Orlando to confront the Antichrist and use Excalibur to signal for reinforcements. Meanwhile, Allan buys a gun and tries to commit suicide, but fails to do so.
The Antichrist is hiding in 12 Grimmauld Place (an invisible house), where he angrily rants at Haddo's decapitated head, which is still alive. When Mina and Orlando arrive to confront him, he emerges in the form of a giant covered in eyes, and begins to trigger the end of the world. Excalibur reacts by summoning a light in the sky, which is seen by everyone in the world. Arch-terrorist Jack Nemo (the original captain's latest descendent) sees the light, abandons his terrorist actions in Pakistan and returns to a mysterious project at Lincoln Island. Allan arrives, shoots the Antichrist with a futuristic weapon and confesses his love for Mina. However, the Antichrist is unaffected by the blast, and shoots a bolt of magical lightning from his penis, which kills Allan. Mina goes hysterical with grief and accepts doom, but an enigmatic woman resembling Mary Poppins descends from the sky and destroys the Antichrist by transforming him into a chalk drawing on the road, which washes away in the rain. Haddo's head states Armageddon will still happen, but now Mina is destined to initiate it. Before he can explain, however, the woman takes the head and ascends back into the sky.
Emma Night arrives, accompanied by three women who have all left MI6, as she has now. They escort Mina and Orlando to Africa, where Allan's body is buried in an existing grave dating back to when he originally faked his death. When Night inquires how an immortal is able to cope with eternal life, Mina simply tells her one has to keep on living.
Minions of the Moon
Accompanying each of the three issues is an episode of a text-story entitled Minions of the Moon written in the style of a 1960s "new wave" science fiction-type story, that ties together a range of lunar stories, written by 'John Thomas' (a pseudonym of John Sladek, and slang term for the penis) for Lewd Worlds Of Science Fiction (Brian Aldiss' one-time pun name for New Worlds magazine) edited by James Colvin (another real-life former pseudonym, here that of Moore's friend – and New Worlds editor – Michael Moorcock). The story is presented as if written in 1969
Part One begins with an unnamed patient at an unidentified point in time, it then elaborates on some details of how Orlando became immortal and references 2001: A Space Odyssey. Following this there is a section that continues directly from the main story. The next section features the start of The Story of O revealing the identity of O. The next section provides details of a superhero team that Mina was part of in 1964, whose members include Golden Age British hero Captain Universe, who has recently defeated Fletcher Hanks' Stardust the Super Wizard. The final section concerns Mina's journey to the Moon with the Golliwog, under instructions from Prospero in the Blazing World, who fears that the Lunar War will force mankind's lunar residents to relocate to an area which the Blazing World "powers that be" do not wish them to reach - yet.
Parts Two and Three will reference a range of lunar stories: Lucian's True History and Baron Münchhausen; Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone, Dan Dare, Otis Adelbert Kline's Maza of the Moon, Planet Comics' Mysta Of The Moon, George Griffith's A Honeymoon in Space, Marvel's Uatu the Watcher, the Great Moon Hoax and The Clangers; the works of Jules Verne and Georges Méliès. The story features combat between the "Amazon Women on the Moon", the Selenites, the insectoid residents of the Moon from H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon. He also wishes to make a few references to The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, since both shows are set in Baltimore, where Verne's astronauts hail from.
Release and reception
The three volumes of the graphic novel were scheduled to be released in April/May for three successive years from 2009 to 2011. 1910 was released in April 2009, 1969 was released July 2011, and 2009 was released on June 27, 2012.
Reception to Century has been mixed to positive. Chad Nevett called the book "flat out fun to read". However, other critics such as Chris Sims have criticized the growing amount of indiscernible references as a hindrance to the plot elements.
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- Manning, Shaun (February 26, 2009). "Extraordinary Gentleman: Kevin O'Neill on "Century: 1910"". Comic Book Resources.
- Smith, Zack (April 30, 2009). "Mondo Moore: Looking Back on The Black Dossier". Newsarama. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
- Ó Méalóid, Pádraig (June 13, 2008). "We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Northampton – Pádraig Ó Méalóid talks to Alan Moore". The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log.
- Tantimedh, Adi (April 14, 2009). "Alan Moore's Bestiary of Fictional Worlds". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
- Smith, Zack (April 28, 2009). "Mondo Moore: Alan Moore on New Ideas, Old Ideas". Newsarama. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
- "Indie Edge February 2009: Alan Moore". Previews Magazine. February 2009.
- Ó Méalóid, Pádraig (May 6, 2009). "Talking to an Extraordinary Gentleman of letters part one – Pádraig chats with Alan Moore". Forbidden Planet.
- Chad Nevett (2011-08-01). "'Review: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1969'". Comics Book Resources. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- Chris Sims (2011-07-29). "'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1969': The Story Isn't There". ComicsAlliance. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Century 1910 Annotations, Notes and annotations collected by Jess Nevins
- Century 1969 Annotations
- Century 2009 Annotations
- Preparing for Volume III: Century, The League of Leagues website
- The DC Comics Message Board for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen