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A Blazing World: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume Two
Jess Nevins
MonkeyBrain Books, 304 pages

A Blazing World
Jess Nevins
Jess Nevins is a reference librarian at Sam Houston State University, and the author of Heroes and Monsters: The Unofficial Guide to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (MonkeyBrain, June 2003) and the forthcoming The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana. He lives in Conroe, Texas.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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A couple of years ago, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill published a six issue comic series with America's Best Comics entitled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The series, which followed a nineteenth century group of heroes including Mina Murray from Dracula, H. Rider Haggard's Sir Allan Quatermain, Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, H.G. Wells's Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, gained a following and spawned a film which did not live up to the promise of the book. In addition to the obvious literary and historical tributes in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore and O'Neill included more obscure references. For the reader who wants to be in on all the jokes, Jess Nevins has provided Heroes and Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. After Moore and O'Neill created a second series, Nevins returned his attention to their work, resulting in A Blazing World.

The second series has the League dealing with a Martian invasion from a Mars based mostly on the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds, but also several other Martian romances. The opening references in Nevins's work to the various versions of Mars the author referred to alone makes A Blazing World worthwhile.

Nevins does an excellent job providing a page by page, frame by frame explanation of what the author and illustrator have included in the book, using the hardcover collection of the six issues as his guide. In order to provide the reader with this guide, Nevins lists the page and frame number for each entry. Unfortunately, the page numbers are not listed in the compendium of issues, which means the reader must keep careful track of the pages to which Nevins refers.

Although billed as an "unofficial companion," the fact that Alan Moore provided the introduction and agreed to a lengthy interview with Nevins provides an air of authority to the book, although it is clear that Nevins's conclusions about the allusions in the comic are his own. This is supported by the fact that throughout the book, O'Neill provided brief notes when Nevins points out unintentional homages. O'Neill also was interviewed for the book.

While The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen provides entertaining reading on its own, taken in conjunction with A Blazing World, it becomes an even more incredible book. A Blazing World allows the reader to share the private jokes as well as the literary and historical allusions. Furthermore, while a reader may catch the allusions in the comic, Heroes and Monsters provides more detailed information about where the reader can follow up on the allusions.

One area where A Blazing World is a vast improvement on its predecessor is in the inclusion of 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.

Nevins provides an excellent resource in A Blazing World, demonstrating that a "simple comic book" can be much more complex and literate than the stereotypical view of the medium. Fans of Moore and O'Neill's books will enjoy the prospect of revisiting them with this guide to the intricacies of their work.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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