Monday, November 19, 2007

The Black Dossier; or, Why I Haven't Been Posting So Much Lately

Note to Alan Moore: Please stop getting your prose all over my comic book! I get enough of the stuff during my day job.

Seriously, though, I spent much of the weekend reading through the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, The Black Dossier, and I have to say, it sent me back to the bookshelves and the videos on many occasions.

As far as a review goes, I pretty much agree with everything Kevin Church says here. As Kevin also addresses, I feel the same frustrations reading this as I did reading Moore's Promethea, in that the plot is subsumed by the information overload. And the long prose passages in imitation of other authors and genres, while occasionally impressive as acts of ventriloquism, become difficult to slog through. For example, I barely got through Jack Kerouac's On the Road the first time I read it. Moore's imitation of Kerouac, called "The Crazy Wide Forever," takes everything I can't stand about Kerouac's style and exaggerates it.

On the positive side, I love the spy stuff, especially the depiction of James Bond here and his team-up with Emma Peel and Bulldog Drummond. Kevin O'Neill draws Bond to suit the description Ian Fleming once gave of the secret agent as a cruel-looking Hoagy Carmichael, with a scar down the right side of his face.

I also especially like the inclusion of Drummond in this book, and his depiction as a racist thug. Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond was a World War I vet who starred in a series of hard-boiled detective novels by "Sapper," and his adventures reflect the less-than-politically correct nature of the time in which they were written. But, for what they are, the books are a lot of fun. Drummond was also featured in a long running movie series as well, with Ronald Colman doing a great job as the hero in the first two, and he was later played by such notable actors as Ray Milland and Ralph Richardson. I'm also a fan of the late-60s attempt to turn Drummond into a James Bond knock-off in the wonderfully titled films, Deadlier than the Male (1966) and Some Girls Do (1969). Richard Johnson, an early contender to play Bond, stars in these two films, and they both stand out as some of the better attempts to tap into the Bond craze. The first film also features an exciting climactic fight amongst life-sized, mechanical chess pieces.

As with all the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, Jess Nevins is producing some exhaustive annotations. He's also been nice enough to include a couple of my suggestions, one of which is probably way off base.

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