Pullbox Reviews: Major Holmes & Captain Watson #2- Beware the Crimson Hand…

When Major Sheffield Holmes & Captain Imogen Watson discover a suspiciously familiar murder, the clues lead to a safehouse in London’s East End. But the house was not quite as safe as they thought!

It really isn’t very often that I double down on review articles and cover back to back issues in a series. Seriously, go back and read my write ups (especially this one) and see that it’s maybe a handful of titles about which I’ve felt so strongly. There are just so many indie comics coming out, and we see a lot of ‘em here at thePullbox. It would be impossible to cover them all, so I do my best to cover as many as I can.

But I’m a sucker for new Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s not that I consider myself that much of a “Holmesian”, having read maybe half of the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There’s just something about the concept of a deeply flawed individual committing himself so completely to solving mysteries (because we all know that as far as Holmes is concerned, it’s the mystery that’s the important thing… the crime is secondary) that gets into my headspace and digs in like a tick.

Although, Major Holmes & Captain Watson isn’t strictly a Sherlock Holmes story, is it? It’s also not really a “reimagining” of Doyle’s idea. Both points are just fine, as Sherlock himself has done pretty much everything he can conceivably do in a single lifetime. What Jeff Rider is doing in this story is continuing the legacy of Holmes and Watson by expanding their legend along family lines. Front and center now is Sherlock’s nephew, Sheffield, and Captain Imogen Watson of the American Red Cross. The duo share many of the traits of their elders, but are more than capable of standing on their own.

Rider didn’t just carbon copy two of literature’s most famous characters. Rather than a gifted amateur detective with a superiority complex, Sheffield is a decorated soldier with no desire whatsoever to stand in the shadow of his famous forebear. Likewise, Imogen Watson is a woman with a story all her own (and here’s a hint… it’s a pretty damn good story), no simple spectator or chronicler to the deeds of others , and definitely not subordinate in any way but for their respective ranks. These two characters… okay, three if we’re taking into consideration London Police Inspector Brick, a great original character in his own right and if we’re being totally honest a huge improvement over the often oafish Lastrade. All of these characters are original, each with their own motivations & goals, and invested with personalities to match.

All of that aside, the one thing that Jeff Rider did that I thought merited a second review article is in the way he’s laying out this particular mystery. While he may be paralleling the events of A Study in Scarlet (the first story where Holmes & Watson meet), it’s done with deliberate intent on his part, and on the part of his antagonist. See, the set up is supposed to lead the main characters, and the readers, along a carefully laid trail. In this second issue, we get a glimpse of the purpose behind it.

The artwork by the team of Ismael Canales & Roger Surroca (with credit given to Carlos Cabaleiro for character design) does its share of the legwork in telling this particular story. Throughout the first two issues, there are clues leading our sleuthing primaries from one plot point to the next. There are visual cues to help readers catch on to where the focus should be when time comes for the reveal (call it the “elementary moment”, if you will), but the set up is laid out well. In the illustrations, Canales nails the look & attitude of early 1900’s London & the action sequences have a great flow across the page. Surroca’s work with color is awesome, catching the sense of flickering flames and dingy locales as Holmes & Watson make their way through the streets of old London.

I’d say that the biggest challenge for letterer Justin Birch must have come in placing the dialogue so it’s easy to follow and doesn’t disrupt the pictures. Let’s face it, there’s a mystery brewing and there’s going to be a lot of talking to keep everyone up to speed. It’s not non-stop chatter with no action whatsoever, but there are some pretty verbose panels. Birch, in cooperation with Canales I’m sure, manages to arrange it so that the dialogue doesn’t interfere with the art.

This comic comes with a high recommendation from me. If you like your detectives sleuthy and laden with family legacy, this is the one for you. Make sure you hop over to the Kickstarter preview page, leading into the campaign’s launch on August 18th, just a couple days away. Wait, you didn’t get the first issue? No worries, friend! I have it on good authority that issue #1 will be available through the Kickstarter as well.

Final Score: 11/13

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