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BOOK
Heroes & Monsters
The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Author: Jess Nevins
Titan Books
RRP: 12.99
ISBN 1 84576 316 5
Available 26 May 2006


Alan Moore's comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has been a huge critical success, leading to multiple printings and a $175 million blockbuster motion picture. This in-depth analysis of the first volume of the graphic novel series is packed with intriguing insights, commentary by co-creator Kevin O'Neill, essays on the literary and historical origins of the various members of the "League" and their creators, and a exhaustive analysis of each panel of the story. Also featuring a rare interview with and introduction by Moore...

Although The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ended up as a disappointing film it started life as a seminal comic book from the ever talented Alan Moore. The original comic was steeped in references to Victorian art and literature. This allowed the comic to work on a number of levels from a straight forward action adventure, which used well known literary fictional characters as the main protagonists, to a rich compendium of Victorian facts. This made the book eminently re-readable as well as occasionally frustrating due to some of the more obscure references.

This depth of knowledge has obviously caught the interest of Jess Nevins, who in this book, Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, has gathered together every fact and fiction that was referenced in the original book. Well, "interest" is too mild a word. This book obviously represents a body of knowledge whose collection must stand somewhere between a labour of love and a stalker like obsession. The book has been given the official seal of approval by Moore himself, as he provides the introduction, while Nevins provides the forward. In order to get the most out of this book you will need a copy of the graphic novel version of League.

The book is broken down into five sections. The first of which is the Annotations to the original comic book. Think you know League, well think again. The annotations contains a panel by panel look at all the references. Think that might not be a lot? Well, you'd be wrong, as was I. The original book is so dense that this section alone runs to one hundred and thirty-two pages. Here you will find an attention to detail that isn't seen much outside academic circles. Nevins has tracked down every reference, including one out of Eastenders. If you have any friends who still think that comics are for kids, then sit them down with a copy of the League and this book, it will blow their minds.

The next section, Archetypes, looks at how these types of characters have a deep rooted resonance in the western consciousness. This is a well researched piece which is both illuminating and entertaining. It takes a look at the four main human characters that appear in the book: Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo and Professor Moriarty. On Crossovers diverges slightly in that whilst it references League, this is a much wider look at fictional character crossovers from the Greeks to modern literature. The following section continues the divergence. In Yellow Perils Jess looks at the history of the stereotypical Asiatic which has often been used as the fictional villain. Last up is a nice and meaty interview with Moore which runs to a very decent thirty-two pages.

If you ever enjoyed the League graphic novel, then this is a must have book and if you have yet to have this pleasure make sure you pick up a copy of Nevins book to take your enjoyment to a whole new level.

Charles Packer

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