The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest #4 Reviewed
by Koom Kankesan
The format for this issue of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill‘s League: Tempest reflects British annuals and weeklies such as The Beano and Dandy, various publications by DC Thomson and Odhams Press and Fleetway/IPC. Unlike the last instalment (which referenced girls’ annuals), these annuals were either aimed towards boys or were of a gender neutral stripe that featured various caricatures and tropes and cartoons such as groups of oddball schoolchildren, girls and boys who were naughty or fought each other, soccer and war and adventure and history serials, write-ups on topics that would appeal, infographics and text stories and/or cartoon creations that were highly manic and silly. The oddball comedy would not be unlike that of latter MAD magazine material or the Looney Tunes characters in Warner Bros. cartoons. The Look-and-Lament write-up at the beginning of issue #4 spotlights Ken Reid, one of the luminaries who excelled at this sort of comic creation. I have a couple of boys’ British annuals on the shelf from the late seventies/early eighties and I took a few snapshots:
The cover of this issue actually recaps the entire League saga for us with Mina the Minx, here substituted for British character Minnie the Minx, traipsing through the various instalments before landing where we are now. The various plots from previous issues continue apace. In London, Jason King has been charged with killing the newly rejuvenated Bond by Orlando and Emma Night, but he repeatedly fails. Orlando and Emma Night are in touch with Satin Astro and Marsman who are trying to stop some great calamity. Mina and Jack Dakkar (the current Nemo) are in the Blazing World checking up on its state and Prospero after the Bonds launched a nuclear attack upon it. We get a retro adventure involving the Seven Stars that serves as a throwback to the sixties in British superhero-dom.
The most interesting and dramatic development arrives in the sections with Murray and Nemo in the Blazing World. A play is being performed where Queen Glorianna (a fictional analogue of Elizabeth the First, created by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene, a celestial monarch who is mythologically imbued with faerie aura) charges a young Prospero and Basildon Bond (James Bond’s lineage goes back quite far in the League mythos, it seems) to form the prototypical group (Prospero’s Men) that anticipates The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This sets in motion events (depicted on the stage) that circumscribe Mina’s life. She begins to realize that everything that has happened throughout the League is a set-up.
What’s being set-up? The attack on the Blazing World (which Prospero has now been able to reverse) was something that they wanted. They intended it to happen in order that the calamity might allow a bridge to be created through The Blazing World (don’t ask me how) that will allow the Faerie to cross and invade the Earth. The faerie, ruled by Glorianna and abetted by Prospero, aim to conquer humanity and turn the tables, since they were presumably exiled from Earth/England/Humanity at some point. This takes on shades of Shakespeare‘s play The Tempest, I think, and now we see the reason this run of The League is named thus.
This development also pulls together some of the other strands that have been disconnected so far. Some of the predictions mentioned in the Reddit thread in my write-up of the last issue seem to hit close to the mark. The catastrophe that Satin Astro seeks to avoid, Bond’s role as the arch-villain at this point, and Mina’s central position in all of the League adventures are being woven together. We can sense Moore’s strong desire to tie everything up before the saga ends but whether that structure feels natural or imposed will be up to the reader to decide. One of the problems with the League books is that the plot and characters will never trump the weighting of the various references and analogies and postmodern plays on tropes and popular/literary culture. Each successive League story does such an impressive and mind-boggling job of unearthing some forgotten/lost seam of cultural intelligentsia that all of the spirals and excavations and explorations displace the joy and pleasure to be found in central narratives.
The narratives were tighter and had more of a classical thrust in the first two volumes. After that, Moore’s constellation of references and reach throughout history jumped into overdrive and the subsequent levels of meta-everything become that much more challenging to puzzle and tease out. Keep in mind that he’s not just working with one level removed from reality, but various literary universes and orders, trying to link them up however he can, employing his formidable world-building without all these various fictional pulses pulling everything apart – like strands of gossamer or cotton candy clouds. We’ve got a grandson of Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea entering the Blazing World helmed by Shakespeare’s Prospero while Little Nemo in Slumberland‘s sensibility takes over the shifting architecture of the dreamland, all the while rendered in a 3D comics effect. And that’s only one scene! You can see how it might be difficult to hold everything together.
In any case, it will be interesting to see where things go from here. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “We defy augury!”