After a disappointing Volume 3: Century (review here), I almost gave up on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I’m glad I didn’t, because the remaining four books are a delight.
I’m thorough enjoying the fourth and final volume in the series, Tempest. But first: a review of the three intervening books that are bundled as the Nemo Trilogy.
The stories are not, as a casual reader might imagine, about Jules Verne’s famed Captain Nemo, who joined Mina Murray’s league in Volumes 1 and 2. Rather, the trilogy tells the history of his daughter, Janni, with episodes in the steam, diesel and atomic eras.
The premise of Heart of Ice is a little weak. Janni, having recently inherited the Nautilus and Lincoln Island from her father, is bored of pillaging and decides to lead an expedition to Antarctica — why not? At least it establishes the plot of the rest of series, with a prominent role for Ayesha, the mysterious white African queen from H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887).
The literary references are more manageable here. One of my objections to Century was that it seemed creators Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill were in competition with annotator Jess Nevins to smuggle in as many, and as obscure, as possible references to nineteenth- and twentieth-century works of fiction. In Heart of Ice, there is the recognizable magnate Charles Foster Kane of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), American pulp-magazine adventurer Tom Swift, and a monster of H.P. Lovecraft’s.
The Roses of Berlin sees Ayesha in league with Adenoid Hynkel, who was played by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940). Berlin is Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). There is also Dr Mabuse, a character from other Lang movies.
I fear I would spoil too much if I mentioned the inspirations behind River of Ghosts. (If you want a hint, click here.) Suffice to say it’s a fitting finale and a smashing farewell to Janni.
All three stories are fairly short and to-the-point. There are no intricate subplots, which distract from the main storyline. Heart of Ice and Roses of Berlin conclude with (hilarious) written stories by a celebrity journalist to fill in the blanks.
Altogether, these are worthy additions to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe. (And I would say close-to essential reading before you pick up Tempest.)