We’re currently in a Golden Age of Sherlock Holmes right now, with two pictures from Legendary and well-received modern versions of the detective currently being produced by the BBC and CBS. It’s not surprising with such a strong, unique character with such a rich history.
Currently adding to the mythos, Dark Horse is releasing a hardcover of Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London from the materials originally published in France under the Soleil imprint. I wish I could say that it manages to enrich both the world of Holmesian deduction and the realm of the otherworldly mystical, but the collision of these two only manages to provide a bright diversion.
Taking place after Holmes’ “death” plunge over Reichenbach Falls, this work finds Holmes called back to London by an otherworldly benefactor and hired to investigate a force that threatens a world that Holmes could never believe existed. If he fails, his best friend John Watson will be killed.
While an enjoyable and interesting read for the laymen, this will fall short for Holmes fans. Now, the two greatest literary creations of the Victorian age are Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, still providing fodder for creative works over a century later. But, by their very nature, these two characters stand in complete opposition. Holmes represents the pinnacle of intellect and reason, while Dracula is the embodiment of a world without reason or order.
And, therein lies the first obstacle: In Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London (though Dracula makes no appearance), Holmes leaps to an acceptance of this supernatural situation with little doubt or hesitation. Drawing on the lore collected by Abraham Van Helsing, Holmes just moves forward with no attempt to disprove what clearly lies outside the realm of reason and common sense. While he conceives brilliant and uniquely Holmesian ways to deal with the threat, the tone comes across as awkward and arrogant.
Which leads to the second obstacle. Yes, Holmes is awkward, arrogant, and condescending, but he always had Watson to provide a humanity to his tales that he was incapable of imparting himself. Watson is the readers’ way into the riddle that is Sherlock Holmes, but Watson is a non-character here, serving only as the carrot dangled before Holmes to get him on the case. Without him, Holmes comes across with no filter, no narrator to give us a side view of the humanity behind the intellect.
However (despite those two caveats), for the casual reader, this work does have stand-out elements worth recommending. Laci’s artwork is beautiful with clean lines and a sharp attention to detail, with colorist Axel Galbano counterpointing the drab greys and brown of Victorian London with brash bloodlust reds and lightning whites to bring the powerful supernatural world to life. And, Cordurie’s story does move with the power of a good penny-dreadful, charging from incident to incident with the drive of its powerful concept. If you’re a fan of the recent reboots and revisionist versions, you will enjoy this take on the Holmes legend for itself, and not have to worry about it impacting the Conan Doyle canon.
3 ½ FLICKERING VICTORIAN GASLAMPS out of 5