We’re halfway through 2012, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 is finally here to close out Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s examination of the past hundred years. And a doozy of a century it was, my friends. From horse-and-buggy to the convertible to an abandoned and starving space program. From rifles to nukes to drones. What fun! It’s the opinion of Moore and O’Neill that our fictions are currently in as much of a shambles as our economy and environment. While I don’t entirely agree, 2009 makes the point nicely.
Century has been criticized by some as inferior to previous volumes of the League, often because it simply isn’t as accessible. While the first two volumes focused on a well-known cast of characters, many of whom have been portrayed often in film and television, Century veered into more esoteric territory, taking much of its cast from short stories and ’60s British crime films, as well as taking heavy inspiration of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Three-Penny Opera. Furthermore 1910 and 1969 both felt unfocused – the character’s were never sure of their mission, and failed to have much effect, especially in 1910.
Much of that is reversed in 2009 – all the cards are on the table, the end is nigh, and the antagonist is one that every modern reader and moviegoer has at least a passing familiarity with. If you don’t know it is yet I won’t give it away, but I will tell you that he uses his “wand” in some new ways here. Along with cameos from Dr. Who, Charlie’s Angels, and every James Bond ever, Prospero puts in his first appearance since Black Dossier, as does another major player you’ll recognize.
The criticism of modern fiction is also more focused, and raises some worthwhile questions. One of the character’s calls modern fiction “banal and reassuring,” which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, but it still bears repeating. Century also raises the issue of whether or not by changing the stories we tell each other, we can change the world we live in. And that needs doing.