Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s Penultimate Comics Together – Tempest #5 and Cinema Purgatorio #17

The new League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest and the new Cinema Purgatorio both came out in recent weeks. Both are the penultimate issues of those series. Both are the final (at least announced) comic book works of Alan Moore. Both are drawn by Kevin O’Neill.

And both are breaking the rules.

League is a combination of other people’s stories and characters, unofficial sequels, prequels, reinterpretations and recontextualization, using the fiction of the time to portray the reality of the time and find a common thread through them.

But with the opening of the first issue, we get a very real person, Richard Dadd, a painter who was driven mad to murder and spent his life committed, drawing the fairies he could. An inspiration for many, from Charles Dickens’ Edwin Drood to Terry Pratchett, in League is a real man who made himself into fiction with his self-portraits, reinterpreted as someone who could see into The Blazing World.

This is his painting, which names the chapter, The Fairy-Feller’s Masterstroke, painted in Bedlam, featuring a goblinified version of himself.

So just as someone from the factual world invades fiction, so the fictional world invades the fact. This issue, following on James Bond as M nuking the Blazing World and unintendingly fuelling the original plans of Gloriana and Prospero, so fiction breaks out and invades reality. And bring the end times with them. With just one issue left.

Here are a few favourite moments from that issue. Richard Dadd, now as a fictional fairy, observing what is happening to the world, no more mad than the visions he saw. His painting features a fairy about to smash an acorn with an axe. The fairy is the world of faerie, the Blazing World. The acorn is the world.

And this is the allegory that League has been heading to all its run. That fiction has escaped its bonds, monetised by the state to its own ends in terms of propaganda and the genie can’t be let out of the bottle. Fiction is now used to rule fact, belief beats reality, fake news beats reportage and, yes, ‘crucial institutions seized by trolls’ and ‘populations driven to demise by apparitions’. Conspiracy theories, echo chambers, troll farms, white supremacists, hypernormalisation and reality bubbles. And all originating with actions taken in the 50s and 60s with the Cold War… so here we have Putin being chased by Baba Yaga.

The EC Comics of the fifties invading 2010. But also that ghost, only seen in this specific pose repeatedly, is a print by Alice illustrator John Tenniel known as the Nemesis Of Neglect, an early supernatural entity of revenge, here recreated as an EC character.

Great punnage aside, British and Taliban forces fighting together reflects US forces supporting Saudi forces fighting alongside Al Qaeda in Yemen, against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels Houthis.  With the immortal soldier (and colleague of Orlando) Corporal Cuckoo?” while Pataphysics is “the science of imaginary solutions” which may define the entire comic.

The Vril-Ya of The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, once Secretary Of State and replaced in that role by the Duke of Newcastle. As to these subterraneans, there is a theory expressed that German psychics studied the book during World War II, channelled subterranean beings with knowledge for the Nazis, later taken by the United States through Operation Paperclip. Fiction invades reality.

And here invading Fulchester, the fictional Newcastle-Sunderland town, itself a reworking of Roy Of The Rovers’ Melchester, and where the Viz Comics characters appear – here we see the winged Vril-Ya dealing with the Fat Slags – or rather the girl dealing with them, Mr Gimlet and Finbarr Saunders and his Double Entendres with ‘coming all over Fulchester’, the Drunk Bakers a particular favourite of Moore, and Big Vern, always committing suicide so as not to be caught. And a far portlier Angel Of The North.

And while I enjoyed Raoul from The Bojeffries Saga appearing amidst the werewolves of London, as a variety of screen vampires league together, a narration that reminds us that this is 2010, when Arthur C Clarke‘s sequel to 2001 was set and so named, with the monoliths on Jupiter and on the Moon re-explored and recontextualized to another portal into the Blazing World.

As is the looking glass of Alice In Wonderland. As two great families come together below the seas and above the skies..

And we get a little time travel back to the first issue of Tempest, a self-causing time loop that set this whole storyline off in the first place. To his inevitable death and everyone’s mutual embarrassment…

So as the rules are broken and everything collapses in The Tempest, how about in the Cinema?

Cinema Purgatorio’s lead strip by Moore and O’Neill sees someone watching movies, in a hellish cinema, condemned to repeat their journey and their vigil, seeing real-life tales of Hollywood reinterpreted through familiar fictional avatars. So the story of the Warner Bros become one told as the Marx Brothers. Corruption in movies as the Keystone Kops. And in the penultimate issue, we get the story of Howard Hughes, pilot, businessman, inventor, technician, defence contractor, playboy and filmmaker.

And it focuses in on one very specific moment from 1958 – the wrong date below is intentional, showing Howard Hughes’ lack of awareness of the passing of time – in which Hughes occupied a screening room, watching films, never venturing outside for months, consuming nothing but milk, Hershey bars, pecans and Poland water.

League Cinema

It is likely Hughes suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But this is a direct parallel with the experience of our lead character, constantly watching movies in a run-down theatre, interpreting them in their own way.

League Cinema

We even get a reinterpretation of the nine-panel grid, slap bang in the middle of a page, to look at the various aspects of Howard Hughes, who is also appreciating the use of the split screen effect in cinema, paralleling the juxtaposed medium of the comic book through which this story about film is filtered.

League Cinema

And the appearance of a certain sofa both on screen…

League Cinema

…and in the cinema itself…League Cinema

That gives this more of a Jimmy’s End feeling of the crimes in life being visited upon the dead in purgatory. But the rules set up for each world are being broken. As the end times come to both comic books.

There’s other synchronicity as well, as Howard Hughes gets all James Bond, designing a fake marine research platform to retrieve a sunken Russian nuclear submarine…

League CinemaSo the child of the Jules Verne lineages of Captain Nemo and the Robur The Conqueror has his own lair under a volcano, with a Nautilus ready to take to the stars…

Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's Penultimate Comics Together - Tempest Book 5 and Cinema Purgatorio #17

For the final issues, could one stretch across to the other? Tempest Book Five already has Raoul in it…

LOEG TEMPEST #5 ONEILL
(W) Alan Moore (A/CA) Kevin O’Neill
Ostensibly a cheap British reprint of pre-code American horror, this penultimate stop on Moore and O’Neill’s pyrotechnic farewell tour takes us from the tortured mind of artist Richard Dadd to a London swallowed by darkness; from a spectacular 3D struggle in the Blazing World to some jaw-dropping vengeance in Vauxhall and a conclusion that is out of this world. Meanwhile our Seven Stars finally come face to writhing mess with the monstrous menace of the ‘Mass while providing origins for both Satin Astro and the Flash Avenger. Don’t miss the never-to-be-repeated cavalcade of wonders that is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Tempest.In Shops: Mar 27, 2019
SRP: $4.99

LOEG TEMPEST #6 ONEILL
(W) Alan Moore (A/CA) Kevin O’Neill
In Moore and O’Neill’s final comic book, this issue masquerading as a British science-fiction weekly, the plot-strands of our concluding volume and loose ends from twenty years of continuity are tied in an ingenious starry bow, as Mina Murray and her legendary confederates transition from the world of fiction past and present to the world of fiction future. Planets end in visual spectacle, lovers are united in the matrimonial event of the millenium, and deadly enemies draw close in the conclusion of their fatal dances. This is your last call for the immaculate crescendo of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. IV, The Tempest.In Shops: Apr 17, 2019
SRP: $4.99

CINEMA PURGATORIO #17 (MR)
(W) Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos N. Gage (A) Raulo Caceres, Nahuel Lopez, Gabriel Andrade (A/CA) Kevin O’Neil
The end is near with the penultimate issue of the finest anthology in comics.  Now showing: Cinema Purgatorio by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, A More Perfect Union by Max Brooks and Gabriel Andrade, Code Pru by Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres, Modded by Kieron Gillen and Nahuel Lopez, and The Vast by Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrade. Each story has its own cover by the series artist and there is also an Ancient Tome Premium edition limited to 1000 copies.In Shops: Mar 27, 2019
SRP: $6.99

CINEMA PURGATORIO #18 (MR)
(W) Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Max Brooks, Kieron Gillen, Christos N. Gage (A) Raulo Caceres, Nahuel Lopez, Gabriel Andrade (A/CA) Kevin O’Neil
The end is upon us in the gut-wrenching final issue of this epic anthology! The final showing: “Cinema Purgatorio” by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill; “A More Perfect Union” by Max Brooks & Gabriel Andrade; “Code Pru” by Garth Ennis & Raulo Caceres; “Modded” by Kieron Gillen & Nahuel Lopez; and “The Vast” by Christos Gage & Gabriel Andrade. Each story has its own cover by the series artist and there is also an Ancient Tome Premium by Caceres.In Shops: May 29, 2019
SRP: $6.99

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.