A BLAZING WORLD
by Jess Nevins
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Shortly after Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill published The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, they published a follow-up in which the League of nineteenth century literary figures teamed up against the menace of H.G. Wells's Martians. It should come as no surprise then that Jess Nevins, who provided an excellent companion to the first volume with Heroes and Monsters, again brings his ability to ferret out literary allusions to bear on the text (and illustrations) in A Blazing World.
While many of the strengths of Heroes and Monsters remain, unfortunately its biggest weakness is also apparent in A Blazing World, a weakness which is neither Nevins's nor his publisher's fault. In the need to define what Nevins is describing, A Blazing World resorts to referring to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume II by page and frame number. Unfortunately, the hardcover compendium to which Nevins's text refers is unpaginated, meaning the reader has to keep track of progress in both Nevins's book and the original text for fullest appreciation.
Despite this weakness, Nevins's book is an excellent companion, for all it declaims itself "unofficial." The author has tracked down brand names used in the illustrations as well as details of the various story lines included by Moore and O'Neill, revealing that the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is even more complex and well crafted than its predecessor. The opening references to the various versions of Mars the author referred to alone makes Nevins' work worthwhile.
As with Heroes and Monsters, Nevins provides a guide to the textual materials at the end of the book, which in this case includes the amazingly allusional The New Traveller's Almanac. This piece, which contains brief passages to a wide variety of fantastic and other literature, rivals John Myers Myers's Silverlock, which has its own compendium provided by Fred Lerner.
While the strengths and weakness of Heroes and Monsters remain in A Blazing World, Nevins and his publishers did include a vast improvement on the earlier work. A Blazing World includes a detailed index which allows the reader to quickly hunt through the book for specific literary and historical allusions. Once Nevins's descriptions are read, the reader can attempt to locate the appropriate pages in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II.
Heroes and Monsters included an introduction by and interview with comic author Alan Moore, A Blazing World includes these features as well as an interview with illustrator Kevin O'Neill, who also offered interpolations into Nevins's own text. As with the first book, this cooperation by the creators of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen provides Nevins's book with an air of authority.
With luck, Moore and O'Neill will provide further adventures of the League and Nevins will have the time and energy to compile future detailed companions to their works. With luck, America's Best Comics, the publishers of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will begin paginating the collections so the readers of Nevins's works will have an easier time relating his information to the comic. And with luck, Nevins's publishers will be able to properly promote his work and distribute it as widely as Moore and O'Neill's books.
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