Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill
Publisher: America's Best Comics
The book opens on the planet Mars, where we find two Earth men who have found their way to the red planet are leading the Martian armies that are driving back the invasion force that has descended upon the planet. However we see that the leadership of Gullivar Jones (Edwin L. Arnold's "Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation") & John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Under the Moons of Mars") doesn't look to be enough, as the tripod aliens (H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds") look to coming in an unstoppable wave. However when the creepy Sorns arrive on the scene we see the battle is turned against the invaders, and as the armies of Mars storm into the invader's base the two humans are disturbed to learn that the invaders have been studying the planet Earth. As such when the invaders look to leave the planet the two men have a fairly good idea where the invaders are heading next. Meanwhile, on Earth we see the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is still together, and they have been called in to investigate the smoking crater that was made when an object from space crash-landed in the English countryside.
I've never read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs' work, and unless the Gullivar in these pages is related to the hero from the Jonathan Swift's "Gullivar's Travels", then the only element in this opening issue that I'm familiar with is the appearance by H.G. Well's tripod alien attackers from his "War of the World" novel. However, since it does look like H.G. Well's contribution is going to be the only element that carries over into the next issue, I'll simply let this first issue slide by as an extended prologue that should appeal to the fans of "John Carter: Warlord of Mars". This opening issue certainly does a pretty fair job of setting up the sheer immensity of the threat that the League has been sent to investigate, as we have entire armies engaged in a war against these invaders from another world. Plus, given the human race's level of technological development at the turn of the century (even allowing for the addition of the more fantastic technologies introduced by writers like Jules Verne & H.G. Wells), one has better hope that Earth's toxic air does these visitors in rather quickly, as the League is woefully ill-equipped to handle this threat.
Much like the first issue of the original "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" miniseries, Alan Moore seems to delight in his ability to keep the reader in the dark by making use of a foreign language during most of the dialogue exchanges. Now the plot is simple enough that one doesn't really need the dialogue to follow the action, though one is left confused by a couple moments in this opening issue as we try & piece together who's fighting for whom. Now I'm not going to complain too much about this opening issue, as by its very design it's supposed to act as a teaser of what's to come, and the chaos on Mar served to heighten the suspense of those final two pages where the League arrives at the impact sight. Now I'm sure that fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs' work found this issue a more rewarding reading experience than myself, as I found the most enjoyable section of this issue to be the page where we learn that the invaders are the H.G. Well creations that inspired the infamous Orson Welles radio hoax, and the equally impressive 1950's sci-fi film. Plus, since the first miniseries dealt with the whole gathering of the League, next issue we can jump right into the action with the assembled team.
He may be one of the slowest artists this side of Arthur Adams, but I don't think there's another artist working today who I'd even let touch this book, as Kevin O'Neill proved on the last miniseries that his art was created to detail the adventures of these turn of the century heroes, and with this opening issue he takes it one step further by completely blowing the lid off what one can expect to see in this miniseries. I mean from that opening three page sequence where we discover we're on the surface of Mars, to the follow-up pages where we are introduced to the various multi-armed wonders that inhabit this world, this issue is a visual feast. We have pages where entire armies are charging into battle, and of course there's our jaw-dropping one-page introduction to the villains of the pieces, as the H.G. Well's creations arrive on the scene. There's also a creepy visual moment where the Sorns arrive to turn the tide of the battle, and the building suspense as we see the invaders leave Mars & make their way to Earth. The last page also manages to convey a sense of just how big this story is likely to become.
This issue struck me as more of a prologue leading up to the beginning of the story than the first chapter. I mean I'm sure John Carter's fans will enjoy this opening issue, and we do get a tantalizing look at the threat that the League is up against this time out. This opening issue is also acts as a wonderful showcase for the art of Kevin O'Neill, as since most of the dialogue is unreadable one's eye is immediately drawn to the visual splendor that litters every page of this comic. The planet Mars has never looked this impressive, and the opening three pages alone are enough to have one hoping that Alan Moore finds a way to take the League on a trip to Mars, as Earth looks positively dull by comparison. This opening issue is a rather quick read, and at times it's also a rather confusing one, but the first miniseries was a wonderful romp through the literary world of the late 1800s & early 1900s, so I'm willing to let Alan Moore indulge us with a little side-trip to Mars before he starts the main show.
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