The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One
Cover
Publication information
Publisher Wildstorm/DC Comics
Schedule Irregular
Format Limited series
Genre Alternate history
Steampunk
Publication date March 1999 - September 2000
Number of issues 6
Main character(s) Mina Murray
Allan Quatermain
Hawley Griffin
Dr. Jekyll/Edward Hyde
Captain Nemo
Creative team
Writer(s) Alan Moore
Artist(s) Kevin O'Neill
Letterer(s) Bill Oakley
Colorist(s) Benedict Dimagmaliw
Editor(s) Scott Dunbier
Collected editions
Hardcover ISBN 1-56389-665-6
Paperback ISBN 1-56389-858-6
Absolute edition ISBN 1-4012-0052-4

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One is a comic book limited series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, published under the America's Best Comics imprint of DC Comics in the United States and under Vertigo in the United Kingdom. It is the first story in the larger League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. The story takes place in 1898 in a fictional world where all of the characters and events from Victorian literature (and possibly the entirety of fiction) coexist. The characters and plot elements borrow from works of writers such as Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Plot[edit]

Issue 1: Empire Dreams[edit]

The story is set in 1898, some time after the events of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Mina Murray meets with MI5 agent Campion Bond (the grandfather of James Bond) at the White Cliffs of Dover. He offers her a place in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a British secret service task force whose job it will be to protect the British Empire from potential threats. Accompanied by Captain Nemo, Mina is sent to Cairo, Egypt to find and recruit adventurer Allan Quatermain, who faked his own death and has become an opium addict. A group of Egyptians attempt to rape Mina, but Allan kills two of them and saves her. Nemo fends off the other Egyptians with a harpoon gun, and offers his submarine, the Nautilus, as a temporary base of operations for the league.

For their next assignment, the league travel to Paris and meet with C. Auguste Dupin (a detective from The Murders in the Rue Morgue), to investigate a recent string of violent murders. They eventually discover the culprit to be Edward Hyde, who viciously attacks the group when they confront him.

Issue 2: Ghosts & Miracles[edit]

The league successfully apprehend Mr Hyde, who reverts to Dr Henry Jekyll once on board the Nautilus. They then travel to a girl's school in London (run by the sado-masochistic Rosa Coote) to investigate three cases of immaculate conception. The girls believe they have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit, but after a single night of investigation the league discover the "Holy Spirit" is actually Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man, and they convince him to join them.

Issue 3: Mysteries of the East[edit]

The League is gathered at their headquarters in the "secret annexe" of the British Museum, where Bond gives them the task of recovering a stolen supply of Cavorite from crime lord Fu Manchu (Fu Manchu is not mentioned by name for trademark reasons, and is instead referred to as "The Doctor"). He explains that Britain was secretly planning a moon landing to coincide with the turn of the 20th century celebrations, supervised by Professor Selwyn Cavor and using Cavorite to power and levitate heavier-than-air machines.

The League are dispatched to London's Limehouse district in order to learn more about Fu Manchu. Mina and Griffin question Quong Lee (a storyteller from books by Thomas Burke), who reveals that Manchu is indeed operating within the area, but only gives them information in the form of a cryptic riddle: "The waters lap beneath the heavenly bridge. The dragon sleeps below it. My advice to you: do not awaken it." Although Griffin is sceptical, Mina concludes that Manchu's activities must be taking place beneath Rotherhithe Bridge.

Meanwhile, Allan and Dr Jekyll enter Manchu's lair, where they spy on him carving Chinese symbols into a man's flesh with acid. The league re-group on the Nautilus and organise their evidence. Mina believes Manchu has stolen the Cavorite for some nefarious purpose, and suspects that he is building an aerial war machine in the unfinished Rotherhithe Tunnel. She and Allan return to the Limehouse district to investigate activity around the abandoned Rotherhithe Tunnel, and eventually find a large cavern where Manchu's airship (the "dragon" from Quong Lee's riddle) is being constructed.

Issue 4: Gods of Annihilation[edit]

Allan and Mina infiltrate Fu Manchu's lair, but are caught by a guard. An unnoticed Griffin kills the guard and Allan disguises himself in his uniform, planning to get inside the airship and steal back the Cavorite. Griffin meets with Jekyll and tells him to create a distraction. Jekyll turns into Mr Hyde and starts slaughtering the guards, while Allan and Mina sneak into the ship, locate the Cavorite engine and steal it. They reunite with Hyde and Griffin in an underwater glass tunnel, but are cornered by more guards. To escape, Allan shoots a hole in the glass and Mina activates the Cavorite, propelling them upwards through the cascading water. Manchu's lair is flooded, the ship is destroyed, and the Nautilus rescues the league as they fall back down into the Thames.

Bond congratulates the league on their success, and leaves the Nautilus with the Cavorite, telling them he will take it back to his superior M. A suspicious Griffin follows Bond back to the Military Intelligence Headquarters, and discovers that M is in fact criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty.

Issue 5: "Some Deep, Organizing Power..."[edit]

A flashback shows the climax of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Final Problem, in which Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have their final confrontation atop the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. However, Moriarty survives his fall into the water below, and is rescued by Campion Bond and Colonel Sebastian Moran. His criminal empire is in fact a front created by British Intelligence, which Moriarty now controls along with London's West end criminal underworld, while Fu Manchu controls the East.

Moriarty has built his own aerial warship, which he can now power with the Cavorite. Griffin returns to the Nautilus and informs the league of what he's discovered, and that Moriarty plans to bomb London's East end and destroy what remains of Fu Manchu's criminal empire.

Issue 6: The Day of Be-With-Us[edit]

Moriarty launches his airship and starts to bomb the East end of London. The league board the Victoria, a hot air balloon Nemo had stored on the Nautilus, and anchor it to the airship. While Mr Hyde and Nemo launch an assault on the crew, Mina and Allan ascend to the top deck where Moriarty is waiting for them. Allan guns down the guards, but Moriarty shoots him in the shoulder and prepares to kill him. Mina smashes the Cavorite engine's container with a monkey wrench, and Moriarty rushes toward the device, grabs onto it, and is propelled into the night sky. The league leave the airship in the Victoria, and are once again rescued by the Nautilus, this time manned by Nemo's first mate Ishmael (the narrator from Moby-Dick).

The story ends with Mycroft Holmes (the brother of Sherlock Holmes) becoming the league's new director, congratulating them for their work, and telling them to remain in London should there be further need for them in the future. Meanwhile, Martian ships fall from the sky and descend on Woking, setting in motion the second volume.

Extra material[edit]

Each issue of the comic also includes a chapter of a short illustrated prose prequel called Allan and the Sundered Veil, which features Allan Quatermain, John Carter, H. P. Lovecraft's Randolph Carter, and the Time Traveller from H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. The entire story is included in the book version of Volume One.

Also at the back of Volume One are several extras, including the covers of all issues contained in the volume. Also included is a "paint by numbers" drawing attributed to Basil Hallward, who was the painter of the eponymous The Picture of Dorian Gray in the novel. A second version is seen two pages later, coloured, and clearly intended to be the portrait towards the end of the novel when Gray's painted visage has become decrepit and horrid, thus reflecting Gray's personality. The blurb about the paint-by-numbers drawing mentions Hallward's mysterious disappearance, which is a reference to a part of the novel where Dorian Gray, upset that Hallward found out about the fate of his artwork, kills Hallward and has a friend dispose of the body, leaving no trace of evidence. The blurb for the second version of the drawing also mentions failed attempts at a paint-by-numbers by Richard Pickman (of "Pickman's Model") and a cabinet-making kit by Caligari (of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).

A painting of Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, in the background of the cover of volume one also bears Hallward's signature.

Second press run on issue 5[edit]

Issue #5 contained an authentic vintage advertisement for a Marvel-brand douche. Marvel Comics is DC's chief competitive rival within the comics industry and Moore had had a public dispute with Marvel, his former employer. This ad caused DC executive Paul Levitz to order the entire print run destroyed and reprinted with the offending advertisement edited.

In a later title, Moore creates a "Miracle Douche Recall" headline on a newspaper, which is not only a reference to the furor, but is also a reference to the Marvelman, when Marvel Comics had previously retitled Marvelman, which was written by Alan Moore, to Miracleman, despite Marvelman having been around for 40 years.

Awards[edit]

Volume I won the 2000 Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative.

Collected editions[edit]

Annotations[edit]

Jess Nevins' annotations for this volume are available in a book entitled Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and features;

  • Annotations to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, revised and expanded from the versions previously available online.
  • Essays by Nevins on the history of the "Yellow Peril" archetype, pivotal to the first LOEG miniseries; on the origin of the "crossover" concept and team-ups in fiction; and on the Victorian character archetypes present in the LOEG miniseries.
  • Biographies of the main characters in the LOEG miniseries
  • Biographies of the authors whose creations are featured in the LOEG series.
  • Interviews with and commentary by the creators of the LOEG
  • An introduction by Alan Moore

Film[edit]

Elements from Volume One are present in the loose 2003 film adaptation. Similar to the comic, Professor Moriarty is revealed to be the antagonist in the film, though here he physically approaches the League as M, with no presence of Campion Bond. The revelation is not made clear until well into the film's climax, with no reference to Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty apparent at any earlier point. The film also mimics Volume One in a sequence where the Invisible Man (here named Rodney Skinner, a thief who stole Griffin's invisibility formula) departs from the team to spy on the antagonists while the League wrongly accuse him of betraying the group. Subtle references to the comic are also made in the background, such as a mutual newspaper front page which speculates the Martian phenomenon leading to the Martian invasion from H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

References[edit]