Writer: Karl Bollers
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Publisher: New Paradigm Studios
I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for longer than I can remember. My love for the various incarnations of the Great Detective eclipses even my love for Batman or any of the other heroes I had as a child. For me any new interpretations of the character are welcomed with an open mind and open arms and boy, have we seen plenty or reimaginings of the Baker Street Sleuth down the decades. Recently we have had action hero Holmes (Mr Downey Jr), Dr Holmes (OK, Dr House, but they’re the same thing) and two modern Holmes (Elementary and the terrific Sherlock). Now we add to these a new take in the form of the modern day, African American, Harlem set Holmes; Watson & Holmes.
I read a preview of this book (which was originally a digital release) a few months ago and was instantly excited by it. Here we have a reimaging that feels totally original and fresh. I do not think that changing the race of the characters is the really significant change, the decision to plant the story in an interesting location like modern Harlem seemed much more important to me. The location brings with it opportunities to tell stories particular to modern urban America. Detective stories are great ways to explore dark subject matter in a palatable way for audiences and I hope this will be true of Watson & Holmes.
As the title would suggest Jon Watson is the lead in this version, a war veteran now working as a medical intern in a Harlem Emergency Room. Our story begins with Holmes entering the ER, and Jon’s life, with questions about a patient. Holmes is not referred to by his first name at any point during this first issue, I have a feeling that this could be setting up a possible slight change to it or the idea that he may be embarrassed by it. Dressed in a hoodie, coat, trilby and jeans; he is every inch the modern urban male and yet his dialogue is written formally, giving the impression of almost detached intelligence and slight poshness. Any version of Holmes needs to have him ooze cleverness and superiority and this version fits the bill well.
The dialogue by Karl Bollers is natural sounding, particularly Watson’s, and does not fall into the trap often tripped by crime stories of sounding like a constant flow of exposition. The deductions in this first issue are not spectacular but still solid, I get the impression that Bollers is more focused on our heroes’ relationship rather than the mystery, but as the issues go on and the plot develops, I might find myself corrected. Fans of Holmes’ canon will enjoy seeing nods to new versions of classic concepts like the Baker Street irregulars. Rick Leonardi’s art is good throughout with a nicely sketchy quality to it. The first page depicts a rather chilling scene, which Leonardi does very well and highlights the stories pacing, taking time for ideas and images to have real impact on the reader.
Holmes fan or not, give this book a go, it’s an Indie title that will undoubtedly get more attention as it goes on. Rest assured this is not a gimmicky book that only has its concept going for it, what we have here a showcase of good writing and art driven by smart ideas. A good detective book that does not tag itself to another genre or uses fantasy elements is hard to find in comics and if it’s a good one it deserves attention. Watson & Holmes is a good one.
4 out of 5 Nerds