One of my first ever reviews for Den of Geek was of Alan Moore’s 2007 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen release, The Black Dossier. It’s a total and uncompromising masterpiece which undeniably deserved, much like its predecessors, a deluxe “Absolute” edition from publishers DC. After production delays meant that readers spent literally years waiting for the Black Dossier’s release, a further delay for the high-quality Absolute edition wasn’t unexpected, and patient fans were finally rewarded when the book shipped at the end of August 2008.
Or rather, they weren’t. As soon as people started receiving copies of the Absolute edition, it became clear things had gone terribly wrong.
It had long been known that the Absolute edition would not, as promised, feature an exclusive vinyl LP, which was mysteriously cancelled some months previously. People had scarcely managed to deal with this fact when the volume was finally published, and it became apparent that it wasn’t the only thing missing.
The previous two Absolute volumes of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen contained script books as part of the package. These scripts were as densely-packed as the comic itself, and massively illuminated the material. The Black Dossier could’ve benefited massively from one. It seems hard to believe that the lack of a script book was – if not covered up – never really brought to light.
And why, you might ask, would people assume the script book was included? Well, there’s the price – at a $99 RRP for 200 pages, this is the most expensive Absolute edition ever. Something hard to believe when you pick up the thin slip of a volume compared to its chunky predecessors.
As if all that weren’t insulting enough, there are also reports that the art hasn’t been properly re-shot for a higher size, that some pages are visibly just upscaled versions of the reduced art used to print the regular size edition, and that the colour printing has been botched leading to an slight, though still unwelcome magenta tint to the pages when compared with the standard edition.The Absolute Black Dossier makes an utter mockery of the Absolute pedigree, and it’s hard to figure out what, exactly, DC were thinking when they cleared it for release. This is ostensibly their premium range of graphic novels, so shouldn’t customers expect more for their money than a larger-sized, slipcased version of the original that boasts printing of questionable clarity and a price tag that can make your eyes water? Of course it should. The real question is “How was this allowed to happen?” Allow me to espouse one popular theory.
The popular suggestion is that DC are rushing out this poor-quality release to essentially punish Alan Moore for taking his (creator-owned) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen property to Top Shelf for future publications. These claims have not been officially acknowledged, although it’s certain that low production values combined with Moore’s name power do mean that this Absolute version should turn a mega profit even compared to the first two volumes – and it’s not like DC have to worry about damaging the reputation of future League editions. Alternatively, some fans more loyal to DC are suggesting that Moore was the one denying the company use of any supplemental material, forcing them to make this release bare-bones. While it seems equally likely that either party would want to do no favours to the other, it’s the fans who get caught in the crossfire.
The only lesson that can be learnt from this whole debacle? If and when you buy the Black Dossier – don’t bother paying for the Absolute version. You’ll be the one who loses out.
James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.