Heroes Never Rust #47 by Sean Ironman
So, Then, To the Death?
The penultimate issue of volume on of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gets everyone caught up on the villain’s plan and moves everyone into position for the climax. Not much actually happens in this issue in terms of moving the plot forward. We find out Professor Moriarty’s plan and the league heads out to stop him. But the issue is held together because each scene shines in the dialogue. Also, it’s great to finally see the league begin to come together as a team.
A flashback to Reichenbach, Switzerland in 1891 starts off the issue. The final showdown between Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes. The scene is interesting, even though it’s somewhat unnecessary. It explains how Moriarty is still alive, but that’s about it, since Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really play a part in the rest of the volume. But it works because their fight is so proper. Moriarty, while a villain, allows Holmes to write a letter to Watson before they fight. As Holmes writes, Moriarty stares off the cliff. “Ah, what is to be a man below so blue a sky.” But when Holmes asks him if the fight is to the death, Moriarty replies, “Oh, yes. Yes. Absolutely.” He relishes in that moment. There’s an animal underneath the proper, intelligent man, something more primal.
They fight. Holmes wins, and throws Moriarty off the cliff into the water below. But Moriarty doesn’t die. Campion Bond finds him. Then we get why the league is necessary, why superheroes are necessary. “He thought me…an enemy…of the state…never reasoning…that it might suit the state…to create…its own enemy. Shadowboxing, Bond. We’re all just shadowboxing.” The league must exist to fight against any enemy, even if the enemy is the government. It’s common in Moore’s work to have a corrupt ruling system. Here, we have Moriarty as both a government man and a criminal ruler. Even he doesn’t know which one he really is. “Am I, for example, a director of military intelligence posing as a criminal or a criminal posing as a director of military intelligence or both?” I think, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Not to the league, at least. In turns out, Moriarty had the league steal the cavorite from The Doctor, a criminal ruler, in order to use against The Doctor and fuel Moriarty’s own warship to bomb Limehouse, destroying The Doctor’s criminal empire.
One thing I really like about the comic, and one of the things the movie got wrong, is how focused on England the whole thing is. Moriarty’s not out to rule the world. Maybe eventually, but he makes no mention of that here. He’s fighting over London. The threat against the country had come from the inside, and to continue the treatment of minorities from earlier issues, Moriarty, in the words of the Invisible Man, plans for the cavorite to be “a weapon in his war against he Chinaman.” Moriarty’s going to destroy part of what he’s fighting for to destroy the foreigner.
Most of the league just stands around this issue and learns about Moriarty’s plan. Although, the Invisible Man, the member to sneak out and discover Moriarty, proves just how horrible he is by killing a police officer. The officer didn’t discover him. The Invisible Man killed him because “I was cold. It’s getting rather chilly out there, you know.” He smashes in the man’s face and stole his clothes.
Mina is mad at the group in most scenes because she feels they don’t take her seriously because she’s a woman. To be fair, they don’t. But I don’t think it has much to do with her gender. Maybe a little. But there’s more to it. Nemo says to Quartermain, “Why the authorities chose her to assemble our group, I have no idea.” And I have none as well. Jekyll/Hyde is a monster. The Invisible Man can spy. Nemo has his contraptions. Quartermain is a national hero. And Mina is…? One thing I will give her is she gets shit done. Maybe that’s it. She’s capable of getting the job done and making sure there’s a plan. She’s a good leader, even if, in the field, she doesn’t help much. She complains to Quartermain for not catching on to Moriarty earlier. “Now half of London’s to have horror rained upon it. All because of my ridiculous female naiveté.” With the mistreatment of women in the background for most of the series, it was interesting to hear Mina go along with it. But in a move that speaks to the team coming together, as well as Quartermain’s own romantic interests in Mina, he says, “You were no more naïve than I. We’re just lucky that Nemo was ingenious enough to work things out.” The person who’s a representative of England’s past speaks well of two minority groups in one line. Things seem to be changing and the team is finally a team who respects each other.
Well, maybe not the Invisible Man. He’s just a bastard.
Sean Ironman (Episode 102) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.