There are very few things printed on paper that give me the same sense of wild, borderline-creepy anticipation as a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume. You probably know the basic premise: (writer) Alan Moore and (artist) Kevin O’Neill assemble a cast of heros out of 19th and (early) 20th Century literature (Captain Nemo, Alan Quatermain, Mr. Hyde, etc.) into a super-group that battles various retro badnesses in a creepy, twilight counter-world England where science and politics are slightly askew. Besides being effing genius, the conceit allows Moore to run amok in the basement storage of Victorian culture, plucking out the strange and angry and contradictory bits that underlie so much of the culture we live and think with today.
I haven’t finished the new volume, subtitled The Black Dossier, but I’ve read enough to see that Moore has pushed the timeline forward, to post-WWII, with Quatermain and Mina (I won’t spoil the secret of her identity) legging it here and there in an Orwellian fascist England. They’ve been disbanded and disavowed, but they’ve recovered a file detailing earlier incarnations of the league (think Orlando, Gulliver, Prospero — no one is safe) which presumably is important to the plot in some way.
I want to type something into the record here. It’s the warning label affixed to the first page of the file Quatermain and Mina steal. (This seems to be the titular Black Dossier.) It’s written in 1984-style Newspeak and printed in tiny 6-point jewel-type, and if you ever wondered whether it’s possible to write a masterpiece in 150 words, now you know.
THIS WARN YOU
Docs after in oldspeak. Untruth, make-ups only. Make-ups make THOUGHTCRIME. Careful. Supervisor rank or not read. This warn you. THOUGHTCRIME in docs after. SEXCRIME in docs after. Careful. If self excited, report. If other excited, report. Everything report. Withhold accurate report is INFOCRIME. This warn you. Are you authorised, if no stop read now! Make report! If fail make report, is INFOCRIME. Make report. If report made on failing to make report, this paradox. Paradox is LOGICRIME. Do not do anything. Do not fail to do anything. This warn you. Why you nervous? Was it you? We know. IMPORTANT: Do not read next sentence. This sentence for official inspect only. Now look. Now don’t. Now look. Now don’t. Careful. Everything not banned compulsory. Everything not compulsory banned. Views expressed within not necessarily those of publisher, editors, writers, characters. You did it. We know. This warn you.