Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association
This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.
Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier has not appeared on ALA's most frequently banned or challenged lists, but it did create a stir in 2009 when library staff members in Kentucky were fired for tampering with a patron's records in order to 'protect' them from being able to check out the book. You can read more about that over at The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website.
Alan Moore's graphic novels have always been some of the most philosophical, experimental and intelligent comics out there, and Black Dossier is no exception. The third volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series (once loosely adapted into a major motion picture that led to Moore washing his hands of Hollywood all together), it continues the style established in his previous efforts: a distinctly multimedia story told in an unconventional manner, treating classics of literature and other media with a critical and grim manner as he crafts a story that encompasses multiple points of fiction that we are already familiar with into something altogether new. While previous volumes were set in the Victorian era, this volume is set in the late 1950s, allowing Moore to insert his own takes on such figures as James Bond, Emma Peel (though under her maiden name of Emma Night), Bulldog Drummond and more.
The narrative is rather straightforward; Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain from the first two volumes (now both immortal through various means) have stolen the titular Black Dossier from the government, as it contains material on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in its various incarnations, including material on our heroes themselves. They are pursued by agents from the government, the aforementioned Bond, Drummond, and Emma Night. On occasions where Mina and Allan take the time to read the dossier, the book actually turns into the excerpts themselves, in the form of stories and articles, lost Shakespeare folios, and more. Even the paper may change in the book; the dossier's sequel to infamous John Cleland novel Fanny Hill is on a heavier, texture stock, which definitely makes for a new and interesting reading experience.
In terms of a stand-alone reading experience, Black Dossier does not hold up well, though this is by design. Black Dossier was intended as a sourcebook, a fleshing out of the world that Moore has cobbled together from every bit of fiction and fact he thought worth including. It is also important to note that this work is for mature audiences. Moore has never shied away from matters of the human body, sex, and violence in his work, and Black Dossier is no different. If the concept still intrigues you, it is recommended you start at the beginning of the series. The series is entertaining and meaningful, and Kevin O'Neill's art is masterful and a perfect complement to Moore's writing.
Tim @ Central