The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier - Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill 

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Approach "Black Dossier" "? the long-anticipated third volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's acclaimed graphic novel series "? with lowered expectations. It is not the work of greatness as the others, even though the concept of imaging Victorian literary characters as superheroes remains intact (as does the handsome built-in cloth bookmark).

Rather than a concrete, sustainable story, Moore has put forth a sliver of plot, supplemented by a wealth of near-nonsense. The story centers on adventurer Allan Quatermain and vampire victim Mina Harker, casting them as spies, and somehow looking decades younger. They're out to acquire the titular secret documents which detail the entire history of the League.

Trying to stop them is an Orwellian government and a certain dapper, womanizing British secret agent/cad named Jimmy. (Legal reasons prevent Moore from calling him James Bond.)

It doesn't take long for Quatermain and Harker to obtain the secret file, the contents of which then disrupt the narrative in three separate, chaotic chunks, most dreadfully boring. This is Moore indulging his own quirkiness rather than committing to telling a story.

Documents of varying interest include:
" a lost Shakespeare play
" an erotic tale of Fanny Hill,
" a cutout map of Capt. Nemo's submarine,
" postcard replicas and
" a Tijuana bible (look it up).

Moore goes overboard with the whimsy in a kitchen-sink wrap-up in 3-D, glasses included. It's as if all the tricks and inserts are trying to make up for a deficit in story "? sad, because Moore is a master of telling tales in this format.

The good thing about "Black Dossier" is that it plants all sorts of hints about further "League" adventures to come. Hopefully those will be back on track, rather than this loose transitional work.

"?Rod Lott

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