Red Hour Orgy

 

The Return of Alan Moore

 Tom Strong , issues 1 and 2 (4 Stars out of 5)

League of Extraordinary Gentleman, issues 1 through 3 (4 out of 5 stars)

Promothea (4 Stars out of 5)

Supreme (3 Stars out of 5) 

Alan Moore kind of has Woody Allen’s problem. You can make a lot of good films and still not come close to "Annie Hall". If you ask me, "Crimes and Misdemeanors", "Hannah and her Sisters" , "Husbands and Wives" and "Deconstructing Harry" are great films—career highs for anyone else--but they’re just not as good as "Annie". Plus, they’re sort of variations on the same theme: Woody always has the cerebral job as the writing teacher or professor. Relationship problems. Funny juxtapositions between Wittgenstein and Groucho Marx. So forth. So, for an eternity, you’re judged mediocre compared to your own past excellence.

Likewise, Alan has written the definitive anti-superhero superhero books in both "The Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta". How can you top those two? Can anybody replace Diane Keaton and who would want to so to speak? Granted, "Big Numbers" was looking pretty spectacular there until he pulled the plug and I’d love for him to write about left wing politics again like in the great "Brought To Light", but that doesn’t seem too likely…

But like Woody, Alan still believes he still has something to say about the hero genre, just as one bespectacled New York filmmaker thinks he has something more to say about the romantic entanglements of New York intellectuals. And just like Woody--and judging from the several titles he’s writing for his own imprint "America’s Best Comics" and Rob Leifeld’s new line—I’d have to say Moore was correct in his assessment.

 

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Of his three new superhero books, I have to confess I like Tom Strong the most. It’s definitely genre stuff. The hero’s very name is heroic and iconic. But Moore always twists the medium’s rules in new and interesting ways. As always, his books are full of intelligence. His initial backgrounding of the character sounds a lot like those alternative histories we had read a while back called "Steampunk". What if, for example, you had those turbine powered computers with the massive clock gears or what if, somehow, some of Tesla’s ideas came online a little sooner or what if cartoonist Winsor McCay had turned his attention to architecture?

When you answer those questions you get the world of Tom Strong. Furthermore, Moore does something with this character that tells you that this just isn’t Gotham or Metropolis. Tom Strong marries a Black African princess. That just doesn’t happen in superhero comics. Black costumed heroes who are badly dialogued, yes. Black supporting characters, yes. Interracial Marriage? No. I haven’t seen that one yet either in World’s Finest or at the House of Ideas.

The first two issues were real good reads. Moore is also, when you get right down to it, a very good storyteller. When something is heroic, it feels heroic. When something is tragic, it feels tragic--like when Tom Strong's parents are killed. When something is scary, it feels scary. The Tom Strong version of Lex Luther is a man named Saveen and Moore does something very strange with him: We aren't allowed to see his face. It's as if to see his face would reveal something…Evil. Subconsciously it was very disturbing.

The other books are also pretty entertaining.

Here are some summaries:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: This is Moore's rethinking of what you could call modern Brit myths. He reimagines Alan Quartermain, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, and Mina from Dracula, who always has a scarf over her neck, as kind of an end of the century version of The Avengers (Marvel's Avengers, not Emma Peel and John Steed). It seems to be extraordinarily detailed. He appears to have just lifted all his research for "From Hell" and set it in a fantastic setting. It certainly is a fun read.

He wildly reconstructs all these characters, sometimes gruesomely so. Mr. Hyde is an unapologetic serial killer. The Invisible Man impregnates young women at a boarding school, which the girls liken to some Christian experience. Quartermain is an opium addict. The other remarkable thing about the series is that Moore, just as in Watchman and other series, is writing a secondary story in the back. It's an Alan Quartermain story, which, I suspect, is probably better written than the original stories. Terribly well written. Reminds me of the rhyming prose in Swamp Thing a while back.

I wonder how he gets around the copyright on these characters? Are the laws different in Britain?

Nonetheless, a must read.

Promethea: A while back, Moore, who for some reason hates Marvel, did a spoof of the early sixties books done by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He wrote these knock off characters with way too much dialogue who resembled Captain America and such. One character he did was kind of an Egyptian version of Thor. It kind of got me thinking as to why that myth wasn't mined, it's as valid or silly as any other.

Apparently, Moore must have thought the same thing because Promethea seems to be an Egyptian Myth Superheroine. From this first issue, I guess I don't know what all to make of it other than I like it. It's well drawn, full of killer shadows, gravity cars, flying saucer police cars, sort of the advanced parallel world that was created in Watchman. The whole feel of it is very cool. It actually feels like something Steve Gerber would write. There's this great collision between myth and science fiction and ordinary people. Yet another must buy. There just isn't anything else out there like this.

Supreme, The Return: I suppose this was the one Moore book that I wasn't that impressed with. It looks as if he's taking his shot at the Shazam/Superman myth. I suppose it's competently written, even funny in parts. President Clinton gets punched out. The tone sort of feels like Xena. I guess it's just not my thing. I never read the other Image stories he wrote either. Bottom line, I would suggest the other Moore books first.

 

(Isn't he scary?)

 

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