Top Shelf / IDW Publishing
(W) Alan Moore (A) Kevin O’Neill (C) Ben Dimagmaliw
Tempest is not beginner friendly, fan friendly, or, honestly, friendly at all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.
As a longtime disciple, I still don’t believe the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has ever been as enjoyable as those first two volumes (except perhaps with the Nemo side-series, which have always seemed more tightly focused). But there is still a real draw to seeing classic fiction projected through the prism of Alan Moore’s bizarre mind.
But, fittingly for a 64-year-old man, a major thematic concern since Black Dossier has been the perceived devolution of pop culture — when Mary Poppins spanked Harry Potter at the close of the previous volume, Century, the metaphor was a bit on the nose.
And, perhaps partially due to copyright issues and perhaps partially as a reflection of a 20th century media explosion, the references themselves have become more numerous and obscure. Reading through Century, I was constantly pausing to Google just what Moore was on about. This isn’t necessarily a game-breaker but certainly does change the reading experience.
Then again, one could just ignore the references they don’t get. But the tapestry can’t be as rich if you don’t know what the hell you’re looking at.
Tempest continues directly after Century and so far shares (or suffers from) many of its traits. While issue #1 was very much a reintroduction to our main protagonists (Orlando, Mina Murray, Emma Night) and antagonist (James Bond in all but official name), #2 ups the ante by continuing to (literally )destroy important places in the series mythology. And yet it remains to be seen just what the plot is — so far our protagonists do not seem to have any particular goal in mind while it is really “Jimmy” who seems to be the only one doing anything.
Tempest does have a B-plot as time-travelling protagonist Satin Astro partners with Marsman to search out Murray and prevent some unknown future calamity. Moore uses their journey, alongside flashback, as a vehicle to explore and lampoon the superhero genre he made his name in, certain pages even mimicking the cheap black-and-white newspaper prints.
(But are the aging superheroes also a reflection of Moore’s own concerns about the contemporary value of the genre he helped elevate? Is there some self-reflection in these portrayals? Damn you, Moore, get out of my head.)
I’m still not convinced Tempest is actually going anywhere worth going. Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill (who, it should go without saying, is amazing) have indicated this will be the final League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and so far all this seems to mean is an apocalyptic approach to world-building.
There are four issues remaining, though, and I still have some faith Moore can give League its proper last rites. But Tempest will not convert any new believers — start elsewhere if you’ve ever been curious.