Long before it became known for being a terrifically crappy movie starring Sean Connery, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a terrifically acclaimed comic book franchise created by one of the medium's most revered scribes: Alan Moore, the British writer behind Watchmen and V for Vendetta. For Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore, in collaboration with artist Kevin O'Neill, took the entire genre of Victorian fantasy fiction and treated it as a cohesive world akin to Marvel's superhero universe a place where Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Wilhelmina Murray (a.k.a. Dracula's neck-ravaged obsessive love) could be recruited by a secret division of the English government to protect the crown from all kinds of wickedness and weirdness. (Their liaison: Campion Bond, presumed ancestor to James.)
In the first League miniseries, the literary supersquad thwarted an insidious conspiracy hatched by Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' legendary archenemy. And in the second and most recent League saga, the team enlisted the aid of H.G. Wells' famous mad scientist, Dr. Moreau, to help repel the Martian invaders from Wells' War of the Worlds. (Alas, victory came at a price: the heroic death of Mr. Hyde, who earlier in the comic raped and killed the Invisible Man as punishment for betraying the team. Yep: This is a comic book for mature readers.)
On Nov. 14, Wildstorm Comics will publish the third League saga by Moore and O'Neill, this time not as a series of monthly comic books but as one of them big fat handsomely bound graphic novel thingies. Titled Black Dossier, the book marks the last League yarn to be published by Wildstorm; the prickly Moore, who's had some long-standing beefs with Wildstorm's parent, DC Comics, is taking the property to Top Shelf, which will release a new miniseries next year. (But believe it when you see it: Moore and O'Neill are notorious slowpoke perfectionists.) With anticipation high in fanboy quarters, EW.com is proud to bring you this exclusive First Look of Black Dossier.
What you need to know: The story is set in an alternative-history England roughly 50 years after the Martian invasion of 1898. Quatermain and Murray, both strangely younger than when we saw them previous (and they were quite old back then like, liver-spotted and wrinkled-prune old), are trying to track down a mysterious book that contains secrets about their League adventures and revelations about other League teams throughout history. Natch, there are some baddies who are desperate to make sure the dynamic duo fail in their quest.
As you can see from these exclusive pages, Moore and O'Neill have, as usual, crammed every panel with rich detail from well-researched evocations of the period to obscure literary sources. (The Greyfriars School, for example, is a nod to a series of popular mid-century stories about a British schoolboy named Billy Bunter.) You may also glean that Quatermain and Murray continue to enjoy a tense romance and remain fond of getting it on in the oddest of places. (In the last miniseries, the pair attempted a nooner in Moreau's mutant-inhabited forest. Emphasis on ''attempted'' did we mention that they used to be really old?)
Will Captain Nemo make an appearance? Is Murray still hiding grotesque Dracula-inflicted wounds under her scarf? And how did these senior-citizen heroes get so young? Perhaps this ''Black Dossier'' that they're pursuing will have some answers. As for Black Dossier that you, dear reader, can actually buy next month at comic shops and bookstores everywhere, its 208 pages contain cool extras like a 3-D section (glasses are included) and an insert of a ''Tijuana Bible,'' a small, pamphlet-sized comic, often crudely drawn and rather naughty. Like we said: maturity (and $29.99) required.
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