September 30th, 2009
Sherlock Holmes 3 & 4, by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Aaron Campbell
Keep missing this when it comes out, then getting it in a good old splurge. It started off with a bit of a bang, but has settled into something even more interesting, a rigorous and methodical investigation into why this particular character and his milieu have embedded themselves so thoroughly into the old cultural fabric. And a right rollicking ripper of a read, it can’t be alliterated enough, it has become. The plot, Holmes accused of a crime he didn’t commit, jailed, escaped, on the run, turns himself in, is A-B-C simple, but the cop-show cutout story feels totally fresh in this at once strangely distant and oddly overfamiliar environment. The scenes and characters have that similar affect – you’ve seen it before somewhere. You know what Watson’s going to say before he says it, but the deja vu isn’t flat or dry, just seamless and natural. Campbell’s sharp visuals play very neatly with a clean, thoroughly modern line that somehow conveys the impression of the printing imperfections, the warm and fuzzy, soaked-in colours of an old Punch cartoon, completing the illusion of a timelessness springing from a specific and instantly recognised place and era.You’ve always been here, you know this story, you love this stuffy, hawk-nosed, violin playing, gak-crazed perfectionis, his friends and detractors, and you, if you’re me anyway, could soak this shit up all day. It feels like the real deal, as sympathetic as Iain Sinclair’s sanguine A Study in Scarlet obsession, as pure as Basil Rathbone’s aristocratic impatience, as authentic as Conan Doyle himself.
If you got all weird with yourself when Sherlock Holmes appeared in that first book of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this is the book for you. As I mentioned in my review of the first issue, Moore and Reppion are only too happy to express the jouissance of influence that they clearly get from writing their way out of Moore Sr.’s literary Victorian cul-de-sacs. The cameos from Mycroft Holmes and big Vic herself, the irresistible hint that a certain Mr. M. might be the genius behind these fiendishly complex crimes, all give the impression that the current story is set cosily inside LOEG continuity itself, one of many previously unrecorded Great Detective adventures prior to the Reichenbach incident. There’s an important difference though – if LOEG is where pulp and pre-pulp heroes go when they die, a glorious plastic Valhalla where the old undead may relax from the trappings of realism and plausibility, Holmes resting happily alongside Verne’s exciting steampunk anachronisms, then this contrastingly lush and well-rooted comic, Sherlock Holmes 2009, is alive and in the rudest of health.
Hellblazer #259 by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley
It’s been such a long time since I read Shade – is this one the Shade crossover that we’ve been promised, or just a taster for it, or are we talking about a completely different Kathy? Anyway, I’m totally convinced now that Milligan’s overarching plan for this book, his grasp of Constantine’s voice and how to convey its tricky magic bits and modern horror aspects, is consistently as good as I could have hoped for. The big news about this snappy done-in-one is Simon Bisley, yep that one, back doing strip work. He’s been doing the covers for a little while now, and despite being about as ugly as I’ve seen, and full of don’t-care muckabouts with perspective, comedy abdiominals and whatnot, they do yet have some of that old heavy metal power to them, which has made the book stand out from the shelves. But can he do strips still? Can he draw anything that hasn’t got beards and tattoos on it? What would Constantine look like wearing a Godsmack t-short?
Bisley’s work on this issue, you’ll be pleased to hear, is brilliant. It’s an awesome almighty mess, flipping between broadly crazed and meticulously detailed, sometimes in the same panel, and generally stinking of a manic, out-there energy which somehow still manages to rein itself in with moments of reflective, smoky atmospherics and a convincingly fixed and realised Uncle Monty’s house environment. I haven’t enjoyed a Simon Bisley comic this much since that bit when Mongol gets seriously pissed off with Mek-Quake and chases him right off the page. Marks out of ten? Big Jobs.
I can’t remember what other comics I’ve read lately # 10 000
Wednesday Comics – thank god that’s over, I mean really. I’ll miss that truly avant cosmic arsehole interpretation of Superman (thinking is for pussies), and that really cliched noir plot in the Batman strip, and that Promethea reject yawn through the Periodic Table in Metamorpho (which was actually really nice and breezy otherwise); and the casual ‘age is hell’ insanity of Strange Tales; and the ‘don’t read this comic whatever you do’ Wonder Woman layouts; and Sgt Rock having that nice three-month sit down doing fuck all with his Uncle Nazi; and that really fluent and readable artwork in Teen Titans; and the Catwoman one which I read really carefully every week; and Hal jordan, who’s definitely the most interesting Green Lantern, shouting ‘Dill’ all the time… But apart from that I won’t miss it at all.
Batman and Robin – that’s what Batman comics should look like. Sometimes they look like Oor Wullie in the city on pretty drugs, and that’s great obviously, but the rest of the time they look like rain on glass at night, and it’s silly to complain. You can’t blame a scorpion for stinging.
Irredeemable #something – This is a really smart book. It’s the Universe B Superman, where continuity runs backwards, getting shorter and tighter as it goes, and no-one gets saved at the end.