Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil are at it again with the third volume of the critically acclaimed ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ series, ‘The Black Dossier’, currently being reprinted and re-released by DC Comics in 2018.
‘The Black Dossier’ follows Alan Quatermain and Mina Harker into 1950s era London leaving a trail of Easter Eggs for literature fans to follow. While I would caution readers with the ‘adult oriented’ art and themes, any fan of the original ‘League’ books will not be surprised with the content. What is surprising is the breadth of Alan Moore’s knowledge of English Literature and his hat-tip to cheeky English kitsch. From James Bond, to Big Brother, to William Shakespeare, no literature is spared. Even a young Mrs. Peel from the popular British series ‘The Avengers’ makes an appearance. Kevin O’Neil’s art work not only follows in the footsteps of those hunting the ‘Black Dossier’ but also gives us a glimpse into the dossier itself, arranging pages that look like a secret MI6 file studying the history of the original League.
The main plot concerns Quatermain and Harker finding the Black Dossier and attempting to keep it out of the hands of the British Government to cover up their past exploits. The setting is an alternate history London, as if Orwell’s ‘1984’ actually happened in 1948, and the rule of Big Brother has since been dissolved. They are being hunted by Jimmy Bond [James Bond], Emma Night [Mrs. Peel], and Hugo Drummond [Bulldog Drummond] who seek the Black Dossier, as it profiles all of the iterations of the secretive ‘League’ going back to the 1600s. Imagine a single FBI folder which documented the lives of all of the members of the Justice League, past to present, including secret identities and origin stories. The Black Dossier amounts to this and very much more.
I am a fan of classical and modern English Literature; Shakespeare, Conan-Doyle, Fleming, and Chesterton. However my fan-boy credentials are put to shame by Alan Moore’s encyclopedic knowledge of all of the heroes of modern literature. It shows that Alan Moore has not just been writing comics for a long time, it is clear that he was once a knobby-kneed boy with his nose stuck in a book, fascinated by heroes and villains. I can barely turn a single page without noticing the footsteps of authors like Charles Hamilton, John Cleland, H.G. Welles, H.P. Lovecraft, and many more. This began as a response to Kevin O’Neil’s interior designs of M’s museum in the first volume of the ‘League’, which alluded to different teams throughout history, but this is also a coup de gras summation for all fans whoever questioned the origins of the mysterious league. To pull on the threads of one paragraph in the Black Dossier would lead fans to discover a hundred years worth of serial fiction.
‘The Black Dossier’ is tantamount to Alan Moore becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts and knocking out Inigo Montoya after a masterful fencing duel. Kevin O’Neil goes so far into the medium of comic book art that the last chapter of the Black Dossier, literally, must be read with 3D glasses. DC supported this idea by not just printing in 3D, but also including a pair of 3D glasses in each issue. This allows Kevin O’Neil’s classical art style to jump off the page and send the ‘League’ out of the 1950s and into the Technicolor era.
‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Back Dossier’ is currently in paperback reprint edition [3D glasses included] available in May 2018 through DC Comics.