Reviews: The League of Extraordinary Gentleman Black Dossier

Published on March 24th, 2009

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier

Forget the movie, which with comic books is a pretty standard phrase, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman are back in their not quite third adventure. Black Dossier is more of a side project than a full adventure but if you’re a fan then it’s a damn fine read.

Set in world where all literary works are actual history the story begins in 1950’s Britain at the end of the post WWII Big Brother government, where two associates of the League steal the government’s Black Dossier; their sum knowledge of all incarnations of the League and its history. The pair must then escape the government’s agents and discover what they really know.

As with a lot of Alan Moore’s work the whole book is a mix of both comic pages and full prose literature and as the protagonists read the book you get to read it yourself. Made as a collection of banned books, magazines, articles and reports it tells a history that includes part of a lost Shakespeare play, a sequel to Fanny Hill, and Jeeves and Wooster meeting the dark gods of H.P.Lovecraft. Each section is written in the appropriate style and 6 pages of unpunctuated Beat Poetry is tough going at first, but plain groovy when you get the beat.

As with the earlier adventures the art and writing are incredible and pack in so many references to so many things that you’re left bewildered and wishing you were better read. In this case, along with the great-grandson of the League’s former contact Campion Bond (Jimmy wears a sharp suit, drinks vodka martinis and has a penchant for rape), Harry Lime shows up and passing references include Carry On Films, Up Pompeii and the Fast Show. There’s a spaceport straight from Dan Dare and Fireball XL-4 turns up (for any fans of Jerry Anderson’s Fireball XL-5, also look out for Supercar).

It’s a handsome book and comes complete with a pull out Tijuana Bible porno comic (once more the comic is packed with sex, violence and strong language) and a pair of 3D glasses for the last section of the book, which work surprisingly well.

All said, if you’re a big fan of the first two volumes of the League’s adventures this is an excellent addition and gives a depth to their world and history not previously seen. If you’ve not read the other volumes this is no place to start. It’s an unashamedly intellectual read, with a lot of unashamedly low brow stuff thrown in, that takes the reader on a romp through the literary world of 1950’s Britain.

Not for anyone who skipped the text at the end of the chapters in Watchmen.

The League are set to return this April, but given Alan Moore’s previous track record on releasing books we can but hope. Big Numbers anyone?

Mat Hyde
Mathew@comicimpact.com