Writing a review of Albion, the six issue mini-series plotted by Alan Moore and being released by Wildstorm Comics, is rather frustrating. I added Albion to my “pull” list at my local comic shop (the wonderful folks at (the now sadly defunct) Humungo Comics) simply on the strength of Alan Moore’s name. Once I began to read it, I saw that he plotted the book, but the scripting chores were handled by Leah Moore and John Reppion. Though a little disappointed, I decided to give the book a chance. Again, I knew nothing about the book.
And after reading the first issue, I still felt very much in the dark.
Reading the preview blurb at the end of the book for issue number two gave me some insight- this is a series where Moore is reimagining classic British heroes. Being American, that registers about zero to me, considering I know next to nothing about classic British heroes. Undaunted, I decided to keep picking up the series. I figured that I would have a fresh perspective on the series, not coming at it with any preconceived notions of what the heroes are supposed to be like and worrying about “continuity”.
The thing is, I can’t help but shake the feeling that I’m not “getting” a full appreciation of the book. As I read and delve deeper into the story (issue three was recently released), I keep thinking that there are a lot of subtle details, in-jokes, and irony that are flying over my head, because I don’t know the history of these characters. Near the end of issue one, there is a splash page where two of the main characters, Penny and Danny, are standing before three life-sized figures in poses. I was immediately drawn to the figure on the left (a nice Doctor Who reference, as it is a Cyberman), but I’m sure the figure others who are in the “know” zoomed right in on Robot Archie. Yes, I’m that clueless. So, with that out of the way, I can go ahead and give my thoughts on the series thus far.
On its own merits, Albion is a tale of Danny, a comic book fan who falls in with Penny, a woman with a stronger connection to the realm of comics and its heroes than Danny realizes at first. There is another running plot of a “prison” where various people are held- but they’re not ordinary, by any means. Both plots appear to be on a collision course, as there is an overarching conspiracy regarding the heroes and villains that appeared in the comic books- and maybe it wasn’t fiction after all.
Leah Moore and John Reppion’s scripting does Alan Moore’s plot justice. The dialogue, while a little jarring with the “bleeped” out cursing (there are more than a few “#$%ning” and the like in the book), does a good job of giving these characters their quirks. The artwork, handled by Shane Oakley (pencils) and George Freeman (inks), is clever, full of small details that will have you searching through the issue a second time to find all of them. Because of the format of the series, there will be occasional “flashbacks”, either re-telling an a story from an old comic or from a particular series, and the artwork expertly shifts to a completely style, depending on the era the flashback is being told in. In short, the artwork is top notch, and gives Albion a solid, definitive style that is one of the highlights of the series.
Despite all of the positives going for Albion, it is not perfect. Aside from the hesitance mentioned at the beginning of this review, Albion doesn’t feel terribly original. It doesn’t have the “wow” factor of something like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or many of Alan Moore’s other works. Yes, the concept is interesting, but the “government conspiracy” aspects hinted at in the first three issues has become cliche, and is not presented in a fresh way here. I have no emotional connection to the “classic” heroes referenced. So, at some level, the book falls flat for me.
Albion is a quality comic, however. I look forward to seeing its conclusion, and hoping that it will be tied up with the usual Alan Moore brilliance. There are a lot of things in its favor: good writing, excellent pacing, sharp artwork, and a high “replay” value to catch all of the details in each issue. If you’re willing to stick it out past the first issue, you’ll be rewarded with a solid story and good character development.