Pullbox Reviews: Major Holmes & Captain Watson- New players in the classic game…

When Major Sheffield Holmes, nephew to the great detective, and his mysterious American partner Capt. Imogen Watson solve a grisly murder in London’s East End in 1914, they uncover a dark cabal that threatens to destroy the Holmes family and plunge the world into global war!

In the days leading up to World War I, Major Sheffield Holmes, joined by his American partner Captain Imogen Watson, have been attached to the 6th Special Intelligence Division. Under the command of Sheffield’s brilliantly eccentric uncle Mycroft, the two are a force to be reckoned with. When they’re tasked with assisting Detective Inspector Agamemnon J. Brick in the investigation of a triple homicide, the game will be well & truly afoot.

I love a good Sherlock Holmes story, in books and in film. Who am I kidding? I’m a fan of some of the not so great ones. As a fictional character, he has become so deeply ingrained in the collective subconscious that he might as well have lived in truth. Whether it’s his dry wit, his fierce loyalty to his few friends, or the flaws that kept that list so small, Sherlock is one of those few literary characters who has almost taken on a life of his own in the hearts & minds of his fans. Sadly, he’s been around for so long that he’s running out of room in which to work without taking a major beating from the reboot bat.

A lifelong reader & fan of Sherlock Holmes, Jeff Rider knew exactly what needed to be done, and by Jove he went and did it in this labor of love.

Enter Major Sheffield Holmes, military veteran, unrepentant scoundrel, and deductive genius. Of course, every Holmes needs a Watson, but instead of following the formula of Holmes solving all of the mystery while Watson takes notes (and no small amount of verbal abuse), this duo is on a more even footing. In her own right, Captain Imogen Watson is every bit the vigilant detector of clues her cohort is, and carries with her the spirit of the American west and a double barrel shotgun.

One issue in & creator/writer Jeff Rider has found fresh new ground on which to add onto a very old story, continuing the legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character. Not happy with slapping a new sole on old boots, Rider has come up with some great new characters to fill the roles. Sheffield is much more outgoing and less serious than dear old “uncle Sherly”, but no less intelligent. Likewise, Imogen Watson carries the name but none of the flat characterization originally associated with the famous sidekick. In fact, anyone calling Captain Watson by that ignoble title is liable to get popped on the jaw for their trouble. Rider’s willingness to break away from more conventional characters (Sheffield is gay & Watson refuses to be tied up in traditional gender roles) without glossing over the ramifications of these traits makes the inclusions a natural part of their stories rather than being shoehorned in for their own sake.

Also captured on the page is the London, England of 1914. Ismael Canales’s line work is awesome, hitting all of the marks from the quiet moments to the action sequences. Characters are suitably dressed for their time (character designs credited to Carlos Cabaleiro), even though Watson does buck convention with the inclusion of more action-friendly pants under her uniform skirt. With Roger Surroca’s colors added to the mix, the visuals on Major Holmes & Captain Watson work on every level. The action is dynamic & gives an impressive sense of motion during the action scenes. More importantly for a title like this, the details in the panels covering Holmes’s & Watson’s investigation are pure gold (even if there may be a small mistake in the first panel on page 6). Canales zeroes in on the evidence as it’s pointed out by the pair of detectives in a fashion reminiscent of the best CSI reveals.

Speaking of those revealing moments, it’s important to point out that those panels are pretty dialogue heavy. It would have been pretty easy to let the script get in the way of art, but with the work of Justin Birch that never happened. Holmes & Watson fire off their rapid-fire bursts of knowledge, tossing their observations back and forth without breaking up the flow of the panel or obscuring any of the details they’re talking about. The reader gets to follow along, comparing what’s being said to what’s shown without either getting in the way of the other.

I enjoyed the hell out of Major Holmes & Captain Watson for its addition to, not overwriting of, the mythology of a perennial literary favorite. I love that the world of Sherlock Holmes is expanding to include a wider variety of archetypes. I also like that those same standards have been shaken up and rearranged to show a broader representation of people in the early 1900’s. There’s a lot of room to grow for this series, with potential for miles. Fans of all things Holmesian can do a lot worse while waiting for the next turn from Downey or Cumberbatch.

Final Score: 9

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