The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

Writer(s): Alan Moore
Artist(s): Kevin O’Neill
Publisher: Wildstorm
ISBN: 978-1401203061
Price: $29.99
Page count: 208
Year Released: 2007
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): Absolute Edition (ISBN: 978-1401207519)
Genres: adventure; erotica; fantasy; historical fiction; literature; satire; science fiction; suspense/thriller
Recommended for Fans Of: Jasper Fford's Tuesday Next novels, and English literature of all stripes (particularly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries)
Possible Objectionable Material: explicit sexual situations; nudity; violence; coarse language
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Also in This Series: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 1 and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 2

Plot Summary
The aptly named The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier is actually two books in one. The story begins in London in 1958, shortly after the end of O'Brien's thirteen-year dictatorship over the United Kingdom. In the aftermath of Big Brother's oppressive rule, Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain seek to recover the Black Dossier, a book that contains scraps of literature from the last 500 years that each in some way illuminate one of the various incarnations of the League. Once Mina and Allan find the Dossier, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier begins to shift between the story taking place in 1958 and the stories contained within the Dossier itself. These stories include a brief "real-world" history of the gods of "the world's nascent mythologies" in prose form (including those that appear in the works of Shakespeare, Lovecraft, Howard, Moorecock, etc.), a newspaper-style comic strip called "The Life of Orlando" (a Gaimanesque story that follows the legendary adventurer--and League member--from his birth in ancient Greece to his involvement in World War II), a fragment of Shakespeare's long-lost play, "Faerie's Fortunes Founded" (about Prospero's return to England and his formation of the first League under Queen Gloriana), an illustrated excerpt from "The New Adventures of Fanny Hill," and a hilarious parodic mash-up of Lovecraft's "Cthulhu" stories and Wodehouse's Jeeves novels entitled "What Ho, Gods of the Abyss." Meanwhile, back in 1958, Mina and Allan uncover the sordid history of the O'Brien regime while being chased by agents still allegiant to Big Brother, which ties in yet more characters from English literature, including James Bond, Emma Peel, and Harry Lime.

My Own 2 Cents
This volume in the League series is very much unlike the first two in that it doesn't take place in the Victorian era, and is largely made up of "primary source" documents--many of which are straight prose. Despite Moore's prodigious talents as a writer of comic books, the prose pieces are hit or miss. The ones that work (such as "What Ho, Gods of the Abyss") work very well, but the ones that don't ("The Crazy Wide Forever," a satire of Jack Kerouac's writing style) grow tiresome quickly. This third volume definitely requires knowledge of the first volume at least, since Mina's and Allan's characters are not fleshed out at all here, and the "primary source" material is meaningless without the reader having a stake in the characters with which it is concerned. Nonetheless, fans of the first two volumes will find quite a bit to get excited about, and half the fun is trying to identify as many of Moore's various homages to the literary history of England as possible. (For those who need a little help, a nearly exhaustive listing of the references and allusions in The Black Dossier, obtuse or otherwise, can be found here, courtesy of the author and librarian Jess Nevins: Black Dossier Annotations.)