The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (Moore): The first two volumes of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are pure, unadulterated brilliance. Moore is simultaneously at his most clever and his most welcoming - creating two adventures that both comic book lovers and comic book newcomers could enjoy. His spectacular literary wiles made for rewarding stories, more than ably backed up by the terrific art and coloring.
Unfortunately, with The Black Dossier, Moore relinquished his hold on accessibility and succumbed to the peculiar arrogance that occassionally takes hold of great writers.
While the rest of the series challenged and rewarded the reader, this volume spirals into vanity, madness and despair. Moore relies on world-building instead of character development - a mistake that he warns against in his own essays on writing for comics. The error is compounded further - the majority of the book is so wildly experimental and devoid of plot as to completely alienate the reader.
Clearly, the books has its fans. And like all of Moore's work, it is worth of attention and vast swathes of critical analysis. Moore's intelligence and breadth of knowledge are the best in the game. However, he normally tempers these attributes with his audience in mind. The Black Dossier, unfortunately, is so aggressively weird that it should disappoint all but the most loyal and forgiving fans.
This is a shame. I never thought I'd be giving an Alan Moore book such a low rating, but my palpable disappointment after reading The Black Dossier justifies it. Moore has enough venues for his vanity projects without having to torpedo one of his staples.
Largo Winch is the lost heir to the 'W Group' - a massive corporation worth a kazillion dollars. When the company's dictatorial founder kicks the bucket, the previously unknown Largo becomes the ultimate target in an international hunt. Assassins, henchmen, hangers-on and the ladies (oh, the ladies....) are all out to find Largo.
Like the rest of the series, the first volume is a collection of two graphic novels. The first sets up the conflict and the second resolves it.
The Heir is cleverly written and a lot of fun. Largo, with his knife-throwing antics, blatant womanizing and awkward Eurotrash hairstyle, is a pretty ridiculous hero. He's half schoolboy daydream, half Jean Claude Van Damme movie. If he can't solve a problem with sex, he solves it with violence. If he can't solve it with sex, he solves it with violence. If he can't solve it with sex or violence, he throws money at it. And if none of that works, he comes up with a convoluted double-cross with a genuinely surprising reveal. The result is a well-plotted adventure with surprisingly hidden depths.
This is the 'Rome' of the comic book world - an ambitious, well-scripted plot hiding behind nudity and violence.
(More Largo? Check out the review of Largo Winch: Volume 3, the Dutch Connection.)