Thursday, November 29, 2007

Black Dossier

Every so often, something comes along that's just wonderful. And this is such a thing.

Black Dossier is the latest episode in Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's magnificent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (try to put the rubbish film out of your mind). It's not Volume 3 proper; rather it's the "short intermission" promised at the end of Volume 2, which through the plot device of the eponymous dossier explores the background of the League, both in Mina Murray's group and earlier incarnations.

What this entails is a collection of spoofs and pastiches of all kinds of literature, from lost Shakespeare plays through Bertie Wooster vs. Cthuhlu and the New Adventures of Fanny Hill to a migraine-inducing Kerouac homage. The strips that link these (all documents in the Dossier, which our heroes read through the course of the book) are set in a post-WW2 world derived from 1984, Dan Dare and Ian Fleming. There are, as in the previous books, hundreds of allusions to all sorts of fictional worlds and characters, some obvious (a suave yet sadistic secret agent called "Jimmy"; the character who turns up towards the end to save our heroes, whom I can't describe, because it'd ruin an absolutely brilliant and funny reveal), others obscure. This is par for the course, of course, but what's remarkable about the Black Dossier is that where the first two volumes were clever, beautifully constructed romps, this raises the whole idea of the series above the level of a brilliant conceit to something much more substantial, relating it to the ideas on magic and creativity Moore has increasingly been concerned with in recent years, particularly in Promethea. The final sequence is presented in 3-D (you get the glasses with the book), and is both a very funny and affectionate spoof on a lot of the elements of '50s 3-D movies, and a magical conclusion (both literally and metaphorically) which makes very effective and imaginative use of what could easily have been just a gimmick.

This is the final book of Moore's to be published under Wildstorm's ABC banner; he has been vocally unhappy since DC bought the company, and volume 3 of the League, and all his future comics work, will be published by Top Shelf Comics. This book is also unavailable in the U.K., allegedly due to copyright restrictions - although I would have thought the get-out clauses of transformative parody would apply (there seems to have been no issue with the previous books containing allusions to H.G. Wells' work, which remains copyright in Europe), so perhaps this is indeed DC spiting the great bearded one. Anyway, there are ways and means around this, and it's well worth getting hold of a copy, because it certainly left a big stupid grin on my face. I mean - 3D!

1 comment:

petemaskreplica said...

If you're lucky enough to have read this splendid volume, go and check what references you did and didn't spot here.
(spoilers are obviously there.)