Book review: BLACK DOSSIER
The Sherlockians may have first introduced the game back in the early 20th century, when they began treating Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes as a living, breathing, historical figure, which culminated in the early 1960s with the publication of William S. Baring-Gould’s definitive “biography” of the great detective, followed by a biography of Holmes’ bastard son Nero Wolfe. Science fiction author Philip José Farmer, a Sherlockian himself, added more than his two cents to this literary mythology in the early ’70s with pseudo-biographies of Lord Greystoke and Clark Savage, Jr. and his assertion that the landing of a radioactive meteor in Wold Newton, England, in 1795 had caused a genetic mutation responsible for most of the great “fictional” heroes and villains since then. At one time or another, Farmer has linked every character from Fu Manchu, to Professor Challenger, to Harry Flashman, to The Shadow, to Travis McGee into his Wold Newton family tree.
With a nod to Baring-Gould and particularly Farmer, Alan Moore launched his own literary mythos a few years ago with the graphic novel series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the first two volumes of which detailed the late 19th century adventures of Mina Murray, Allan Quartermain, Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, and the Invisible Man. The third chapter, released just last month, is Black Dossier. Like its predecessors, it’s illustrated by Kevin O’Neill. Unlike its predecessors, it did not first appear as a series of comic books. In fact, with Black Dossier, Moore and O’Neill have broken the barriers of conventional comics. The book is a heady print media mix that involves different paper stocks and sizes, like you’d find in a file folder, all bound in hardcover. The ingredients include government documents, a brand new Fanny Hill story, a hardboiled crime magazine, editorial cartoons, some newly discovered Shakespeare, and much more, all threaded together by a traditional comic book narrative that, by volume’s end, morphs into a surreal 3-D adventure (yes, the glasses are included).
Black Dossier’s storyline, if it can even be called that, is thin, merely a frame upon which the documents are hung. But it also brings
Now, if you’re coming to
Me, I’m now looking forward to the next full-blown League graphic novel.