Holmes Mysteries, Volume 1
it or not, Alan Moore wasn't the first writer to bring 19th
century literature characters to life in the comic book format.
He wasn't even the fifth.
and literature have had a long, and somewhat shaky relationship
throughout the years. Classics Illustrated in the '50s and
'60s retold a great deal of the stories from H.G. Wells, Edgar
Allen Poe, Johann Rudolf Wyss, and a slew of other great authors
in comic form; thus making it infinitely easier for English
students to fake there way through a book report or two (as
my mother has admitted to doing in her days of whimsical youth).
modern times, writers like James Robinson have incorporated
characters from Oscar Wilde's illustrious imagination into
his Starman series, as well as nodding at Charles Dickens
with his portrayal of The Shade. Even Warren Ellis snuck 19th
century references into Planetary before the Moore
brought us The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
point in bringing this all up is to show the link between
literature and comics that is almost always overlooked when
in comparison to the comic book-movie connection. And the
fact that it ties into my review in some way doesn't hurt
LXG Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen garnered themselves
an Eisner for their portrayal of probably the greatest detective
in fiction: Sherlock Holmes. (If you said "Batman!"
crack the spine on something other than a graphic novel this
weekend; you'll be a better person for it).
In Gaslight," Powell pits Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's master
detective against not only his arch-nemesis Professor James
Moriarty, but the great and powerful Dracula, and in his second
tale, against the Invisible Man in "A Case Of Blind Fear."
are quite good and it's easy to see why it earned the Eisner.
Powell seems to have mastered the Master Detective's style,
thought process, and speech as his deft writing brings Sherlock
Holmes to life. Obviously a fan of the original books by Doyle,
Powell fills each tale with detailed conversations referring
back to Holmes and Watson's many cases.
this is a little disconcerting to the reader who knows nothing
about Sherlock Holmes (characters who are from various short
stories and cases from other books appear as if they were
a natural part of the story, but are never really explained
in-depth) it's not distracting from the overall plot arc.
In fact, if you are a Doyle aficionado, this comic will be
a continuity buff's treasure, as Powell provides reference
points on where each of his stories fall in-between the many
Sherlock Holmes stories.
In Gaslight" is the stronger of the two stories, and
not just because of the interesting mix of characters. Powell
takes the time and fleshes out these literary characters that
can often simply slip into self-parody, giving each one an
interesting take on their current situation. Moriarty is a
bastard without doubt, but we do get to see his sentimental
side when he seeks a cure for his daughter's ailment from
the Count, or when we hear him lamenting the loss of his former
life, before that of criminal mastermind, of being a math
tutor. Dracula himself receives a fair treatment and Powell
addresses certain feelings that are often left to the wayside,
like Dracula's ever encompassing feeling of loneliness, which
feeds his desire to make pretty women enthralled with him.
his take on Holmes (probably the best I've ever seen) he is
dead on accurate. Holmes' first confrontation with a vampire
leaves him dumbstruck, bordering on the edge of catatonic,
because it is simply something that he cannot apply logic
and reason to. The supernatural is something that does not
fit well into Holmes' world, and Powell remembers that.
Case of Blind Fear" is less energetic than Scarlet, but
it delivers another solid detective tale, and also gives the
reader a demonstration of just how integral Watson is to Holmes'
creative process. We also get some great characterization
with Watson: with everything from learning he has a family,
to knowing he spent time in a war as a medic, to discovering
that he and the Invisible Man were college roommates.
goes to Makinen for his spectacular drawing stlye. It's very
reminiscent of the E.C. Horror comics house style, with thick
black inks and an appropriate amount of grotesque imagery,
but it seems finely tempered by some modern influences since
he doesn't scrunch up the faces of his characters or make
them too similar. Expressions of fear, hate, love, and others
are all made clear with his drawings and need no textual help
to convey the emotion of the scene. The panels do flow, but
I wonder at times if they had to reformat the pages for the
collection, as they seem to break from one storyline into
another at odd spots (halfway through a page, sometimes only
one panel into a page, etc.) Again, it's doesn't really hurt
the book, but it does make me wonder.
"Scarlet" to "Blind" but both of these
stories collected in the first volume are well worth a read.
Books may not be publishing it too cheaply at $18.95 a
pop, but you are getting 200+ pages of story for a good price.
Enjoy this offspring of the literature and comic book mediums
and then go out and write a book report.
Go read the book, too.
Note: As always, the opinions expressed by Mr. Sparling do
not necessarily reflect those here at Fanboy Planet. We believe
that it's not so important to read books as it is websites
like Fanboy Planet.