Pullbox Reviews Sherlock Holmes and the Wonderland Conundrum- Curioser & curiouser, this game is afoot

Sherlock Holmes & the Wonderland Conundrum

Sherlock Holmes is arguably the best investigative mind of all time, but will the world of Alice’s Wonderland be too much for even his brilliant intellect to handle? When a mysterious man interrupts Holmes’ experimentation with a new “tobacco” he is thrown into a whirlwind of ludicrous characters, a London he barely recognizes, and a seemingly unsolvable case. Taking place in just one day, the great detective may be forever changed by what he witnesses, if even he can believe it in the end.

What do you get when you take the most organized and disciplined mind in literature, and throw it into a blender with some of the most chaotic and scattered personalities? Through a series of clever visual bits seeded throughout the book, we’re given as many questions as the detective himself might find, but there’s no time to ponder them. Visited by the very desperate Harry March, Holmes is roused from his contemplations to get on the trail of a missing girl, “Alice, all of twelve, a wonderful girl!… And it’s getting so very late!”

In recent times, I’ve read versions of Sherlock Holmes that have pitted him against Cthulhu and Hell raising Cenobites. But I think that in this fever dream of a story we might see him meet his match.

In Chuck Suffel’s first run at a self-published comic, Sherlock Holmes & the Wonderland Conundrum is a sprint from the first page to the last. That’s not any kind of a diss on the content, Suffel’s story pacing, or the level of interest I had in the book. The fact that I was pushed through my first read is more of a reflection of the tension Suffel was able to instill in Holmes’ attempts at investigating the supposed abduction of Alice. I was sucked into the mood of it all and felt like I had to get to the end before it really was too late! Sadly, and this would be the single problem I had with the book, the end came along just as fast and without a resolution to the questions I’d picked up along the way (as this is billed as a stand-along issue, that made me a little sad). On my second read through, I didn’t find many answers, and in fact I think I wound up with more questions. Going back, I was able to slow down, taking in more of the scenery and picking up on those beautifully laid out easter eggs I mentioned in my opening paragraph.

While Suffel himself may have laid the outline and set the scene, J Schiek was there to put pencil to paper and make it happen. It’s Schiek’s illustrations, picking up where the script leaves off, that help to maintain this story’s insidious pace. What I thought made this book stand out, aside from it being the kind of crossover for which I’m a total sucker, were the hidden puzzle pieces. Take a look at the first sample page below, and you can see some of what I’m talking about. There are clues just like this, laid out like a trail of breadcrumbs to keep you guessing about the truth of the story. Schiek puts it all in there, filling the panels with details that tell half the tale. Likewise, the characters are put together in tune with their Wonderland parallels, and Holmes himself is the spitting image of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic depictions.

Finally, and certainly not in order of importance, I have to give nods to letterer Cardinal Rae. Having worked for publishers big & small, she’s got a knack for setting up dialogue without getting in the way of the art. It’s all easy to follow, in a font set that’s not going to induce a migraine. Sure, all of this might sound pretty obvious, but I’ve seen comics that had everything going for them… and then fell apart because of awful lettering. It’s no small feat to be able to do your job in such a way that the reader can remain completely unaware of your presence in the storytelling.

Sherlock Holmes and the Wonderland Conundrum is a puzzle inside of a dilemma, wrapped in an enigma. The easy take away is that Holmes has run up against literal denizens of Wonderland, come to London to find new subjects for the Queen’s fancy. The more subtle, underlying story is that we’re watching Sherlock spiraling into a drug addiction that’s too often ignored in his more modern iterations. As the reader, it’s left up to you to decide how it’s all interpreted, which is one of the boldest moves a storyteller can take.

Final Score: 12/13

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