Excavating The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest # 3

by Koom Kankesan

Okay, things are not so dire and momentous as I feared at the end of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill‘s issue 2 of League: Tempest. Jimmy and the other Bond iterations (the J Series) did launch a nuclear attack on The Blazing World but it is rebuilding itself, due to Prospero’s ability to reverse time, admittedly with strenuous effort, over a matter of days:

We see next to nothing of Bond(s) in this issue. It focuses on Mina Murray who goes to the Blazing World on the one hand, accompanied by Jack Dakkar, grandson of Captain Nemo aboard the current Nautilus, and Emma Knight (the League’s analogue for Emma Peel) and Orlando as they return to London to exact revenge upon Bond for killing Emma’s friends.

The issue pays homage to British girl’s annuals and this was the element I liked the most. I didn’t buy or read British girl’s annuals but I did see them around, growing up, and I always curiously glanced at them. They were dying out by the eighties, I think, but one saw them easily in used bookstores and thrift shops. The model of young girls who do plucky things and help people or prevent catastrophes and/or bond with each other seemed to be the model of the strips contained within – a kind of British version of promoting Girl Guide/Nancy Drew-esque behaviour if you will – and a flashback episode of Emma Night in this issue, growing up in a boarding school for girls designed to teach them the ways of sexy espionage is hilarious and plays to these tropes while lampooning them. Along with Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, and one of Emma’s friends Bond has killed) as a young girl at the school, we see a young Patsy (Joanna Lumley from Absolutely Fabulous) and Rosa Klebb (from From Russia With Love) posing as a suitably sadistic (and lesbian) physical education instructor.
Whew – the references do get exhausting.

In the story’s present, Emma Night and Orlando begin to infiltrate Bond’s network in London after sleeping together (at least I think they do – sex between all of the principals is so offhand by this point in the saga that I’m never sure), with a panel reference to The Graduate thrown in as our guide. Meanwhile, it seems that there is a possible romance brewing between Mina and Jack Dakkar as they voyage to the Blazing World. I love the photo-montage style that one of these chapters is shot in, once again a nod towards old British annuals.

Along the way to the Blazing World, Mina and Jack stop at Toyland and participate in a ball:

Finally, having reached the Blazing World, we meet the Galliwag and are subjected to a chapter processed through colour separations mimicking an old 3D comic – this should all be familiar fare to readers who have read The Black Dossier: the work this volume seems closest to:

The saga with the Seven Stars and various related space heroes continues apace, albeit separate from the other story line. I literally know nothing about any of these space characters – either their original counterparts or Moore and O’Neill’s analogues – so I’m not going to pretend to try and tease it all out. There is a discussion here on Reddit that will prove useful and I encourage you to read people’s notes and posts about the issue for yourselves – one person suggests that Prospero might be the link between these space heroes and the League characters we are more familiar with. As with Emma’s flashback, I really like the lampooning tone of Electro Girl’s origin and how difficult it is to find romance when she can’t help but shock and burn everybody she touches.

I really like the opening profile (Moore is writing profiles of British comic creators at the front of each issue, each profiling a notable creator in British comics who was screwed over by the industry), this one being devoted to Marie Duval – creator of Ally Sloper and perhaps, according to Moore, the creator of the first ever comic book. Moore writes sardonically of how difficult it was to come up with a female creator to profile: “This had us in a proper two-and-eight trying to find a sole female creator in the annals of an industry traditionally dominated by lonely misogynists, until we tunnelled all the way back to the 19th century and unearthed the masterworks of the majestic Ms. Marie Duval!”

The trumped up letters column is a hoot. Moore lovingly mocks and derides the comics he loved growing up, and their fans, while at the same time paying homage to them:

Catch up with you as we continue to follow Kev and Al into their contiguous cultural confabulations in comic #4 of League: Tempest!

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