Many fans of this series will at first react poorly to this story, I know I did, but that reaction is wrong. I will explain why. This concluding episode of the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century" is far more brilliant than it at first appears. It is a secret message, an encoded scream of horror and a tragedy that mirrors Lear. Read it first before continuing here.
I had eagerly anticipated 2009 after reading 1969, as I'm sure have many others. In the first two volumes of Century Moore had very subtly begun a commentary on the decline of Western Civilization and even more subtly on the possibility of mankind achieving immortality in the near future. In many of the interviews he does Moore often claims to be completely detached from modern life, but don't believe it completely. In an interview he did with wired.com in 2011 Moore mentions that human beings could soon live much, much longer than they currently do and I believe this is the genesis of the Quartermain/Murray/Orlando immortality storyline - he's writing about the predictions of people like Ray Kurzweil and other futurists who believe mankind is on the cusp of living forever. He's also writing about his own long experience of living with two women, his first wife and their lover.
With those elements in mind, I found the disintegration of the Quartermain Murray relationship via their permanent threesome with Orlando to be especially poignant. Quartermain is hopelessly lost without Mina, even though he'd had difficulty living with her at the end. We leave him in a heroin stupor in a basement punk rock club, pissing himself, broken. I was looking forward to some kind of resurgence of Quartermain as a hero, redeemed by his love for Mina. Moore gives us something much more complex instead.
The main protagonist of 2009 is not a redeemed Quartermain but instead Orlando the decidedly un-heroic 3,000 year-old hermaphrodite. Orlando doesn't even seem to care much about saving the world, and his listlessness infects the reader almost from the first page, but along with that apathy there is also a frenzied despair that has crept into the character, he slaughters his military unit in Iraq, returns to London (the city he founded), begins to menstruate and collapses into the shower in tears. Orlando carries a great burden in this story, he represents all of Western Civilization going back to Homer, as he reminds us he fought at Troy, and he has quite a bit less fight in him now than the Napoleonic era fighter he runs into at the open of the story.
Orlando, a woman now, is tasked by Prospero to find Mina and Quartermain and fight the anti-Christ. She goes through the motions. She enlists the aide of M16, also a woman now, to find Mina. She runs into Alan, now a homeless drug addict, but she can't inspire him to help her. He doesn't "do all that stuff anymore." This is a commentary on the "End of Man" as in the end of males/masculinity at the start of the 21st century. Quartermain had represented the stalwart heroic values 19th Century Great Britain, however flawed, he pulled himself out of an opium den once to save Mina but he won't do it this time, he's done with all that. Now some of you may pull back from my interpretation here and say I'm reading too much into the story, but I'm not and I'll make my point shortly.
After Orlando rescues Mina from an insane asylum, where she's been drugged into incoherence for 40 years. Once off the drugs she recovers fairly quickly and they together resume the case of fighting off the apokalips, although Mina was told by the Prisoner of London that by the time they discover the anti-Christ in 2009 it will be too late. They both try to get Quartermain to come with them, but he won't. There is an emotional exchange between Quartermaine and Mina, Orlando doesn't even get involved, but she can't sway him. He says he's sorry for going to the drugs, but also blames her for not being there for him. He says it was all the adventuring that ruined them, but it's hard to believe that. I think the rupture between them and Mina's incarceration since 1969 is meant to represent the fundamental change in the relationship between men and women in the Western world since the 60s, whatever redeeming influence women might have once had over men it's been lost with their equality with men. That's a controversial thing to say, but I think that's what Moore is saying with this fiction.
Orlando and Mina go on without Quartermaine and discover the anti-Christ is a pistache of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. This will probably be the most talked about bit from 2009 but I don't think it's the most interesting. After they realize what they are facing they report back to Prospero, and give themselves one night to rest and more importantly to have sex before facing the end of the world.
This is important because when Orlando and Mina do battle with the Harry Potter/anti-christ they do so as lesbians, man is not in this fight. During the course of the fight Quartermaine does manage to restrain himself from suicide long enough to show up and prolong the fight, not exactly saving Mina and Orlando but helping them out a bit. He is then killed by a lightingbolt from Harry's penis.
This all feels absolutely horrible to any reader who cared about the relationship between Mina and Alan, but it's all symbolic of the fall of men and the rise of women and the death of Western Civilization, it's what the story is about. This episode references King Lear and the abruptness of the tragedy here feels very much like the 5th Act of King Lear, where all hope of reconciliation is lost. The undead skull of Oliver Hado comments as much when he tells Mina and Orlando that they haven't prevented the Apocalypse, they've stolen it from him. Mary Poppins also shows up and takes out Anti-christ Harry. So it's all women here at the end, even M16 and her girlfriends who show up and transport the remaining ladies to the immortality pool. This isn't a condemnation of lesbianism but it is a simple statement about how Western Civilation's relationship between men and woman has now irrevocably collapsed and women together cannot produce a child sexually, which is a kind of a apocalypse. Mina reinforces these notions in the closing pages when she comments that as bad a flirt as Orlando is as a woman she's worse as a man, men aren't going to make it not even in the League of Extraordinary GENTLEMEN, but women will live on.
With all of that said, Moore has said there will be another chapter in the story of the League and it will take place only a few years later, possibly 2010-11. So I'm hoping fans will give this story a deeper look and consider the themes I've talked about in this review. Moore has really tapped into something with these stories, he's almost predicting the future in a way that's he's not getting credit for because I don't think many people understand what he's writing about. This graphic novel is attempting to write about the death of the civilization that birthed the fictions from which it was created. And it presents a dark vision of the present. I had more than a few goosebumps over the scene that references "school shootings" in the U.S., given the events of Friday. A brilliant, brilliant piece of fiction that should be read by everyone.