In the '80s, with his work on such titles as Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Swamp Thing, and Miracleman, writer Alan Moore redefined comic books. Armed with an acute knowledge of how comics worked and driven by an affection for comicdom's past, a desire to take it forward, and a dislike of most work being done at the time, Moore raised the bar for mainstream narrative comic storytelling to previously unscaled heights. Miracleman, to choose just one of the prolific writer's major projects, began as an attempt to portray realistically how the gift of superpowers would affect an otherwise average man before its sophisticated approach eventually evolved into an exploration of the continued power of mythology and religion in contemporary society. But a public split with DC Comics sent Moore off to work on his own, a frustrating situation not because his work declined in quality, but because of the disappointing tendency of projects—aside from the excellent, oft-delayed Jack The Ripper series From Hell—to vanish into the ether. All that has changed in recent years, however. After being recruited to take over Supreme, previously a fairly undistinguished title, Moore returned not only to mainstream comics, but to the superhero characters he'd seemingly put to bed with Watchmen. Moore used Supreme to explore the Superman mythos, and it apparently whetted his appetite for more superhero stories. He recently returned to the playful Supreme—after the series' financially imposed hiatus—with the new series Supreme: The Return, but even more notable is the recent launch of America's Best Comics, the British writer's own imprint and the home of what so far looks like an insurgent revitalization of the seemingly moribund superhero genre. Set at the close of the Victorian Era and patterned after such team-up books as Justice League Of America and Doom Patrol, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen takes as its heroes Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll, and other of inhabitants of the era's literature. Promethea and Tom Strong, meanwhile, are set in an alternate-universe present dominated not by digital computers but by electricity-age machines. All three titles use Moore's knowledge of past comic- and pulp-fiction styles to create entertaining titles whose cleverness and self-awareness never threatens to devour their stories. Moore never allows the comics to devolve into snarky irony; his approach here is a sort of new classicism, creating stories as immediately accessible as they are richly textured, and that nicely reassert their author's place as the best comics writer in the business.

Advertisement