Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century: 2009
Moore’s literary sci-fi comic takes us almost to the present day
Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s epic three-part third volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen finally comes its conclusion with Century: 2009. Having opened at the end of the Edwardian era in 1910 and continued onto the butt-end of the hippy thing in 1969, the final instalment of Century fast-forwards to the present day (almost), the beginning of the new millennium, but in many other ways, the end of just about everything.
As the third volume opens, we find the once formidable League disbanded: immortal sex-shifter Orlando has gone to fight in the Middle East, vampiress Mina Harker has been locked up in an asylum ever since she had a bad acid trip at a rock concert at the climax of the previous volume and the also eternal Allan Quartermain, in absence of his beloved Mina, has descended into drug hell once more. Meanwhile, the Moon Child, the antichrist figure hinted at in the two previous volumes, has been born and the world is heading towards some kind of apocalypse. Given a kick in the pants by their god-like master Prospero (Shakespeare’s magus recast as Moore himself), and assisted by Andrew Norton (the time-travelling alter-ego of Moore’s mate and fellow author Iain Sinclair) and the new, female head of the British secret service, the decimated League of three re-assemble to do battle with the Moon Child.
It’s intriguing to see what Moore does with his contemporary milieu. Once again, the book is crammed with literary, cinematic, televisual and otherwise fictional characters. It’s quite clear, however, that Moore doesn’t care much for contemporary pop culture (something he’s admitted in interviews), and so 2009 turns out to be a very sour end to Century. Moore’s also smuggled in a bit of meta-textural critical comment about why modern life has become so rubbish.
None of which is to say Century: 2009 isn’t a great read: it is. And it stands, interestingly, apart from the rest of the League adventures through its modernity. In any event, while it feels like the end of everything, it’s hardly the end of the League’s adventures, as the note on the final page suggests: ‘End of Volume Three.’ We can confidently expect more from the League, past or future. But perhaps not present.
(Top Shelf and Knockabout)