The big glaring issue of this volume - it’s set in Victorian England AND it’s based on 19th century adventure stories. Which means the authors have taken a carte blanche to engage in some pretty epic level racism, misogyny and a dash of homophobia.
Look, yes, when using past settings there should be prejudices depicted - because that was how it was (and how it very much is). But there are correct ways of doing this - naming, showing prejudiced PEOPLE and then showing them as wrong. Depicting prejudice and then challenging it.
This volume doesn't come close to it; the prejudice is revelled in and elevated at every turn. We don’t just see prejudiced people, the marginalised people fit those prejudiced stereotypes; prejudice is reinforced as ACCURATE at every turn in this book - from how the characters act to how they are drawn. Bigotry is not only reasonable, but it is accurate and even a sensible response to the situation
Mina Murray is the so-called leader of the league. She is hired by Mr. Bond, an agent of the British government to gather up a “menagerie” of people to help protect the empire. To that end, she rounds up Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, Allan Quatermain, and Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man). Mina is now divorced from her husband after supposedly being “ravished by an Easterner,” and the League is her chance to make her own way in this world. This premise sounds good right? A woman in charge of all of these notorious men, on a mission to save the empire. What could be more glorious?
Unfortunately, from the very beginning it’s clear that Mina is a liability. When she goes to retrieve Quartermain, Mina finds him high out of his mind on opium. She tries to rouse him several different ways but it is not until she is set upon by a group of Egyptians intent on raping her that Quartermain jumps out of bed and comes to Mina’s rescue. Throughout this volume, Quartermain saves Mina several times and Mina is only able to return the favour once.
Mina seems to be in charge because she plans the missions and even hands out the assignments, but it is Nemo who has the intelligence to have Bond investigated. When Mina rightly gets upset that she was not consulted on the investigation of Bond, Nemo actually commiserates with Quartermain about western women not obeying their men and dressing like whores. At no time does either man acknowledge that she managed to get them this far with her careful planning. No, they are being oppressed by having a woman who does not know her place.
When it is discovered that Bond is indeed a problem, instead of focusing on the issue at hand, Mina actually blames her failure to investigate Bond on her female naivete. To be fair, Quartermain does acknowledge that he was also naive but he never blames it on his gender. This failure of leadership is solely because of her gender.