Obligatory warning: Major spoilers ahead:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009 marks the completion of a narrative arc that began with Black Dossier. But it also works (whether or not the LOEG actually continues from here) as a fitting conclusion for the series as a whole. Having brought the Victorian-era cast right up to an apocalyptic Twenty-First Century, there isn't much left to do but to give them a fond sendoff. That is, if they can survive the rampage of Oliver Haddo's antichrist.
Admittedly, I was less engaged with the de rigueur tangle of cultural references found in this book. Partly, this might be due to the contemporaneous nature of what was being referenced. And the heavy Anglo-centric focus didn't really help, as it's something of a personal blind spot. So I'm pretty sure I missed about 99% of them on my first reading. While I picked-up on some of the James Bond allusions, I had already lost interest in that franchise even before Roger Moore left the role. But given the overall mood, I'm not sure it matters. In my review of Century: 1969, I noted an oppressive undercurrent just beneath a surface of gaudy colors and sexual liberation. Forty years later, things have become far worse. The year 2009 apparently discloses an exhausted world just waiting for an inevitable end.
Lest there be any doubt where everything is heading, LOEG's satire is far more blunt than in 1969. As the glorious monuments from previous adventures crumble, nuclear war is an ever imminent threat, British bobbies look and act like Imperial Stormtroopers, and popular entertainment as a whole is crude and apathetic. It's vaguely reminiscent of the Cold War ennui of Watchmen. The comic attacks the essentially bourgeois nature of pop culture, specifically through its biggest target: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. As principal characters Mina Murray and Orlando stand on the ruins of Hogwarts, the former comments "This whole environment seems artificial, as if it's been constructed out of reassuring imagery from the 1940s…" Just one of a continuous string of zingers castigating the mega-popular franchise. And yet nothing is quite as reactionary as Mina's own indictment of the new millennium: "People were desperately poor in 1910, but at least they felt things had a purpose. How did culture fall apart in barely a hundred years?" To which Orlando replies "By becoming irrelevant, same as always…"
Eh, whatever. But Mina was trapped in a madhouse for forty of those hundred years. So I can cut her some slack. Isn't her distress part of the point? Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill are most effective when capturing the inner turmoil of the cast. In 1969, they were grappling with the consequences of immortality. In 2009, they're dealing with an overwhelming sense of crushing defeat. Allan Quatermain in particular cuts a truly pathetic figure driven to the depths of despair by Mina's disappearance in 1969, yet manages to perform one last act of heroism before being killed by the antichrist's magical piss. I know that sounds ironic, but it's actually quite touching when read. Given how anachronistic a figure the "Great White Hunter" has become, it's as fitting a way as any to end Allan's life of adventuring. And after being put through the ringer, all of these vintage (but cleverly re-imagined) characters are just about ready to call it a century, and a career.
But if anyone has earned the right to be a crank baying at the world, it's Alan Moore. And if anyone has had cause to complain about the uninspired perpetuation of media franchises, it's also him. If he wants an underwhelming Harry Potter to be easily bought down by an equally unimpressed Mary Poppins (And not by the more conventional means of the mythical sword Excalibur), I'd say it's as clever a way as any to depict the fall of Western Civilization. So what comes next?
People were still milling at the lobby, appraising their purchases.
And I finally took my leave of my first Comic-Con.
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Back at the Cartoon Books, a PA message declaring the official close of Comic-Con causes someone to pull out a bottle of champagne. Toasts are made. And there is a visible sense of relief over reaching the end of another convention.
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Sailor Moon Vol. 1 was primarily a team-building effort, with the Sailor Senshi engaged in a defensive campaign against an enemy they didn't know. It's not unusual for many long-running manga series to dole out information in small chunks in order to preserve the intrigue. But Naoko Takeuchi keeps up the relatively quick pace. With Vol. 2, the number of pitched battles are cut down slightly to allow for a rapid succession of earth-shattering revelations that by the end of the book supply the broad outlines of the scope of a war being fought, and the destiny of its protagonists. As a result, Vol. 2 is highly overwrought, as what is at stake is no less than the survival of the entire planet.
At the center of this cosmic struggle is the thwarted romance between Usagi Tsukino and Mamoru Chiba. The story picks up right where it left of, with the two finally confronting each other about their respective secret identities. What initially looked to be a case of simple teenage infatuation turns out to be something that has already managed to survive death and endured for ages. The significance of this doesn't go unnoticed by the series villains, the Dark Kingdom. So they go about abducting Mamoru and turning him into one of their agents. This is seen as a major catastrophe by Usagi and the Senshi not just for the obvious personal reasons, but also for reasons having to do with the story's cosmology. For evil's influence is both pernicious and irreversible. The present warring parties are basically reincarnated versions locked into repeating an ancient pattern. And the lone attempt to defy fate comes from an evil henchman momentarily shaking off the influence of his masters, only to have the evil poured right back into him.
The volume is also notable for the introduction of Sailor Venus, the often mentioned Sailor V playable character of the video game. Unlike the genki girl found in her own series, Minako Aino joins the team as the serious-minded and battle-hardened veteran. There seems to be a bit of retconning taking place in order to make the original Sailor V concept mesh better with Sailor Moon. This involves some narrative sleight-of-hand over who is the actual lost princess of the Moon Kingdom and the location of the legendary crystal. Both issues are quickly and cleverly resolved, and the team is finally complete. This shifts the focus to directly confronting the attacks of an increasingly bold and reckless Dark Kingdom
In the end, Vol. 2 serves as quite a contrast from the more straightforward Vol. 1. The melodrama, supplied backstory, expansion of the conflict, more intense battles, and the introduction of a more fatalistic undertone, all add up to an emotionally draining story. If there's a weakness to the approach of putting a series of obstacles in order to block Usagi/Mamoru's relationship, it's that the plot mechanics have upstaged character development, especially that of the other Senshi. But the volume ends with a suitable enough cliffhanger, with Mamoru's fate in the balance.
|The late Cynthia Myers is calling it a convention|
While there will be people who are going to feel embarrassed by the glamour girl component of Comic-Con, it's hard to deny that both cheesecake and beefcake are very much a part of the con's trashy pop-culture mélange. Luckily, those with more purist notions about how comic conventions should be run aren't completely devoid of events that cater to them.
|And so is Lou Ferrigno|
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|Jeff Smith sketching for a fan|
Unsurprisingly, I was a little star-struck on my first Comic-Con. This made me hesitant to approach some of the exhibiting artists. But as any experienced attendee will tell you, most industry professionals are used to interacting with their fans at these events. And Jeff Smith was one of the nicest people I would meet at Comic-Con. At the time, he was still flush from the success of his self-published comic book series Bone, and was then promoting his collaboration with fantasy illustrator Charles Vess, the miniseries Rose.
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Accompanied by a Ranma ½ cutout. I believe this was the popular mangaka's first visit to Comic-Con. And she was placed in the autograph area with the other celebrities, starlets, has-beens, and ne'er-do-wells.
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