A new Alan Moore comic is rare and wonderful thing that demands both immediate attention and thoughtful analysis. Here's the former...
- First off... It's good. OH so good. Just a very well-crafted magical adventure comic, with a nasty black sense of humor and a sense of its characters that's deeper than this first look is really designed to discuss. Moore and O'Neill are both at the top of their games here, and that's always good to see. If you haven't bought, it, buy it. And if you don't want it... What the hell's wrong with you? Just LOOK at this thing!
- Century, maybe more than the previous League volumes, has been a horror story at its core, and the sickly green and queasy lettering of the cover capture that tone quite well. And the eyes? Oh, pay no attention to the eyes. They're not important at all. AT. ALL...
- Sharp-eyed readers might notice that Allan Quatermain is absent from this cover. There's a reason for that, but I must also say that I rather like what Moore does with him here.
- No, I'm not going to tell you what that is. SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW, but we're not there just yet. And besides... That's one element I'd rather let you discover in the reading.
- Each of the League volumes is Moore's critique of the society and popular culture of the era it's set in, and this one is no exception. As he's on record as admitting that he's a bit out of touch with the pop culture side of the last decade, that does make Century: 2009 the weakest of the League books on that front. Much of the pop culture detritus washed up on the shores of this volume is a bit dated, with many of the specific music and fashion references coming from the 90s. Noughts sensations Heroes, Lost, and 24 all make it in, though, as does Matt Smith's Doctor Who (having an entertaining cameo walk-on with first Doctor William Hartnell). Daniel Craig's James Bond is on-hand, as well, along with every other Broccolli Bond, making a pointed commentary about franchise characters carried on a bit past their expiration dates. And, yes, there's the other big Noughts pop culture reference that's already been spoiled in the headlines: a certain unnamed young wizard plays a rather central role (but more about him later). That sounds like pretty good coverage of the biggest pulp fiction stuff of the Noughts, but much of it isn't engaged with as deeply as such material was in earlier volumes. Much of what's there is just off-hand throw-away references, and the more obscure material is mostly absent. So, yes. A bit weak on the pop culture critique.
- The social critique, on the other hand, is very strong indeed. The poor and disenfranchised crowd the panels, and the book's opening sequence with Orlando fighting in the Middle East This is also where Moore makes his most in-depth pop culture references, drawing heavily on British satire to populate the League world of 2009.
And now it's time for SPOILERS... after the jump.
Prospero! In yo’ FACE!
– The Blazing World reaches out to touch Orlando in one of the book’s more technically impressive sequences. Prospero reaches out of the TV, and the panel itself, to chew Our Heroes out for spending 40 years not going after the Moonchild like he told them to. Which puts his perspective on mundane things like time in an interesting perspective, I think. Prospero has a real weight here, almost like he’s more real than Orlando, aided and abetted by the clever lettering technique of giving all his words a subtle drop-shadow (not visible above, but I couldn’t resist that shot of him reaching out of the comic at us).
– Okay, so. The 500 lb gorilla in the room. Harry Fucking Potter. Yes, young HP is in the book, and he is Oliver Haddo’s Moonchild. The Anti-Christ, primed to seize the coming apocalypse by the neck and make it his. And I don’t think he’s very happy about it: he sedates himself heavily, and for years, to prevent the apocalypse from coming. That’s a brilliant conceit on Moore’s part, I think. It retains some of the character’s heroism, even while giving him the moral compromise inherent to the League treatment. The apocalypse is inevitable, of course, and this immensely powerful child must play his role in it, becoming in his anguished and drug-addled state the incoherent voice of ignorant, whiny youth. Thankfully, however, British children’s fiction has a counter for that sort of thing…
Don’t FUCK with Mary Poppins!