November 24, 2009

The Parallel Lives of Sherlock Holmes

Most popular literature - in fact, most of contemporary fandom - comes from primarily one source: Sherlock Holmes.

He is probably the first character who helped create thinking in literature around the concept of canon. He is one of the most widely-read (and widely interpreted) characters in existence. (Yes, there is a Holmes movie coming out this winter. No, I won't be seeing it. Next question?) But there have been two reinterpretations within the past few years that show that there is life in the Great Detective - and Dr. Watson - in the comic field.

Unfortunately...Victorian Undead isn't one of them.

It's not a bad comic - there's something about the match of the rational with the irrational, of the scientific with the supernatural -that gives it a slight edge. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, despite his creation's emphasis on science and reason, was more of a spiritualist). Davide Fabbri's art is clean, providing a nice contrast between the 19th century "real world" and really helps sell the story. However, writer Ian Edington seems to be taking a "writing for the trade" approach - Holmes does not really appear until the second half of the issue, and there is quite a bit of info-dump. I may give it another issue or two, but unlike Wildstorm's North 40, the parts don't quite fit into a cohesive whole just yet.

However, one book (which I picked up at this past summer's comic-con for a grand five dollars) that I have loved is Omaha Perez's collected indie Holmes: Haydn's Head series. As you can see, Holmes is modeled not after any actor or figure...but of Iggy Pop.

That's right, Mr. Iggy "streetwalkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm who wants to be your dog" Pop. And the results - sacreligiously hilarious.

And that's a compliment - there's a real energy and willingness to push the boundary with Holmes' character. The art helps serve a story which has a unique energy all its own - it is hard to encompass plot points without spoiling: suffice it to say, this is a Holmes that Robert Downey, Jr. could never play - he is that debauched, that left-of-center, and quite frankly, seems to run amok, almost solving crimes in spite of himself.

Most Holmesian scholars will take umbrage at Perez's take, but that's not a bad thing - it means that Perez is taking the character in a decidedly different, fresh take. It's not your father's Sherlock Holmes, that's for sure.

I'll give Victorian Undead another issue or two before deciding to drop it - otherwise, I would recommend waiting for the trade. Until then, pick up and enjoy Holmes: Haydn's Head. Definitely worth purchasing.

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