The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century - Chapter 1. What Keeps Mankind Alive?

Chapter 1. What Keeps Mankind Alive?

In 1910, twelve years after the failed Martian invasion, Captain Nemo is on his deathbed in Lincoln Island. He asks his estranged daughter, Janni Dakkar, to resume his name and calling after his death. Janni refuses and leaves her father's side. Spying a passing ship, she swims towards it and stows away upon it. The ship takes her to London where she takes up employment at a wharf side hotel under the name Jenny Diver. Arriving on the same ship as Janni is Jack MacHeath a.k.a. Jack the Ripper, who is a direct descendant of the 18th-century highwayman MacHeath a.k.a. Mack the Knife, and immediately takes to murdering prostitutes again, one of whom looks suspiciously like the actress Louise Brooks, whose character in the 1929 film Pandora's Box is a Ripper victim.

Meanwhile, the occult detective and second League member Thomas Carnacki has visions of bloodshed on the waterfront and of a secret cabal of magicians convening to plot the creation of a Moonchild destined to bring forth the end of the world. Mina believes these visions may be connected with the upcoming coronation of King George V. Intelligence chief Mycroft Holmes advises them to investigate both, and suggests that the bloodshed on the waterfront is the work of MacHeath, whom he believes to be Jack the Ripper.

While investigating one of the men Carnacki saw in his vision, Orlando, Quatermain and Carnacki stumble upon the circle of magicians, who claim that what Carnacki saw either is wrong, or has not happened yet. Carnacki inadvertently gives the magicians a crucial piece of information that they need to create the Moonchild. At the same time, Mina and Raffles consult Andrew Norton, a time traveler bound by the confines of the city of London, who speaks in riddles that hint at the Harry Potter series, war in Iraq and the July 7 bombings, but otherwise offers little help. He vanishes to another time, promising that he will meet Mina again in 1969.

Janni is raped by the drunken patrons of her hotel, and is later aided to her room by Suky Tawdry. (Suky, as narrator, has intermittently been addressing the reader through the fourth wall, in verses referring to The Black Raider and based on the song Pirate Jenny from Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera.) Janni fires a flare to summon the Nautilus—the "Black Raider"—which is docked nearby.

The following day MacHeath is about to be hanged without trial as Mycroft is worried that a trial might bring to light the involvement of the 14th Earl of Gurney in the original Ripper murders. MacHeath sings his last plea from the gallows while the Nautilus, now painted black as per Nemo's orders, and with his skull nailed to the forecastle, emerges and destroys every building on the waterfront, save for Janni's hotel. The crew of the Nautilus descends upon the waterfront to loot, murder and rape while Janni, now the captain of the Nautilus, orders that the hotel patrons be killed slowly.

At the last moment, a message arrives from the Earl of Gurney confessing to all the Ripper crimes. MacHeath is released and the League head to the waterfront to try and push the pirates back. While the men fight, Mina comes face to face with Janni, who recognises her. Janni says her father had nothing but bad things to say about Mina, which renders her worthy of respect to Janni. She bids Mina farewell, inviting Mina to join her should Mina ever decide to forsake government work. When Mina asks her name, Janni says she is "no one".

The issues ends with Mina expressing frustration with the League, while MacHeath and Suki sing and dance to a modified version of "What Keeps Mankind Alive?" (like the rest of the songs in the issue, the basis for this song is taken from Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera).

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