Saturday, November 24, 2007

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Thoughts on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

To me, reading League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier was like reading an issue of Wallpaper*.

Wallpaper* is stunning to look at. The colors and design are rich and immersive, and the writeups touch on a variety of locations and pieces. But the end result of reading the magazine is me poring over a list of places I will never see and furniture I will never own. It's beautiful, but a bit hollow and unsatisfying.

And that's how I felt reading The Black Dossier. It was an exquisite catalog of pointers to stories that I will never actually get to read. The pastiche was hilarious and convincing, the artwork was striking, and the ideas were fascinating. But on page after page I found descriptions of amazing tales - Orlando's life story like a bullet point list, Fanny Hill's new escapades in synopsis form, postcards with throwaway references to adventure, casefiles summing up dramatic episodes in quick bland paragraphs. It was a frustrating tease, high on concept but not that high on actual realized content.

The book is a great success as a literary exercise, though. It has loads of fodder for thought and speculation, and it has some amount of content and resolution for the series characters. The Lovecraft/wodehouse short story cracked me up (and reminded me of the old story collection Scream for Jeeves), and I enjoyed all of the references to the Big Brother government (especially the bizarre naughty minicomic).

But ultimately, I would trade the massive list of literary plotbunnies for even just a few of the fully-realized stories themselves. What would it be like to see an immortal gender-changing warrior learn to fly in World War I dogfights, for example? A single-sentence mention of that concept just doesn't do it for me.

In other news: I've been away for a bit on vacation. Pictures to come shortly, glad to be back.

1 comment!     click to join in

1 Greg D   (6:09pm - Jun 3, 2008)

I had my own differing reactions to this...I needed Wikipedia to understand some of the references, but I thought the overall Mina/Quartermain story was rather nifty. That said, I couldn't follow/read the Dossier entries very well, and they pretty much lost me after everyone got onto the ship and went to 3D land. I'm hoping that LXG3 will be much better in this regard, and have more story (like you)

But I'm also rather curious about Orlando, and would like to see more of hir.

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