"I'm only involved when matters are grave, and when Holmes genuinely needs me!" - Dr Watson
Issue 7 sees Holmes and Watson embroiled in the second instalment of the new plot arc The Frankenstein Knights as The Dark Detective touches base with it's Hammer roots. The case is hotting up as Holmes delves into just what the Marquis of Frankenstein is up to in Victorian London, but unfortunately for our master sleuth he's not alone in pursuing the answers. The entirely evil Professor Moriarity and his henchman Colonel Moran are also hot on the heels of the Frankenstein mystery, as the Professor believes there is unimaginably wealth available if he can follow the clues.
With the body count mounting Holmes believes the Marquis isn't after a few spare body parts, something I was certainly willing to believe given Mrs Shelley's infamous novel, but is after particular items for nefarious purposes. Can Holmes run down the Marquis before Moriarity can? - Issue 7 concludes with a cliff hanger ending that will have fans sweating on the release of the next Issue.
It's been quite some time since I last sat down with an Issue of The Dark Detective, and while this can be put down to Publisher Black House Comics having other things to contend with through the later part of 2010, I must admit that Issue 7 has been sitting on my review queue for a few weeks now. For those that don't know December/January is pretty torrid in the review game as Distributors rush to get final Christmas fare to market or hit the New Year with major works to get things rolling. Currently our review queues are overflowing with Downunder and Foreign dark genre goodness, so thanks to those writing in wondering when I might attack this Issue of The Dark Detective. It was the nudge I needed to rock on with the best series of gothic comics to have ever been releases in this Country. Okay on with the review, drop your linen and start your grinning, it's a ripper of an Issue.
Scriptwriter Chris Sequeira continues his dance with historic and literature as Issue 7 kicks off and we get the low down on the history of the Frankenstein Knights. Mixing in facts with stuff he made up Sequeira gives the reader one hell of a ride through some turbulent years in Europe's history. Without giving too much away, spoilers and all, Sequeira presents the Knights as a force of Christian good, battling the Islamic invaders, saving Norway's King from assassination, and the like. But while doing so the Knights also are shown to have a diabolical aspect, that whole necromancy thing is never good in a dark outing. Is it just me or did Sequeira pony up and hit the whole zombie thing? Full marks to the wink to Romero, "For it was said when their time came, the dead would walk again". So while we have on the one hand a possible force of goodness, can that force be entire good if forged in diabolical scientific practises? In short Sequeira is conjuring up the real essence of Mary Shelley's novel, can man aspire to be God? Not bad going for a comic script, just goes to show it's not all decomposing corpses out in panel land.
Oh and before anyone writes in wondering, yes Sequeira, showing a marked knowledge of all things historic and literary, does reference a certain meeting between Lord Byron, the poet Shelley, Dr John Polidori, and Mary Godwin soon to be Mrs Shelley. There's a ripe recipe for intrigue, literary plagiarism, and all manner of outlandish rumours to be had from that meeting. As they say, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Sorry for the digression.
Okay so while Sequeira is having a lot of fun making up a historic context, and I was certainly jiving to his beat here, he doesn't do so at the expense of the Detective most readers are dialling in to read about. Holmes is at his brilliant best, deducing clues, mixing it with the rough elements of Victorian society, and it must be said doing his best to ensure that Mary, Dr Watson's long suffering wife as opposed to Mary Shelley, might be in need of Legal advice. For those that loved the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie, dial into The Dark Detective you are going to be enthralled by what Christopher Sequeira has created here.
I should add, prior to moving to the artwork, that Sequeira captures a Victorian England feel to the script and doesn't drop that feeling throughout the Issue. There's a mixture of Boys Own Adventure along with "we are not amused" going down that captures the Victorian ethics of the time, and which ring true to the reader.
Philip Cornell is once again on song with the artwork, the panels in Issue 7 are outstanding with just the right attention to detail without overwhelming with overly ripe background details. Cornell captures just the right mood as Sequeira's script advances, from the historic retelling of myths, through time spent in cemeteries, to the dives of the London waterfront. It's a marvellous visual feast that will keep you glued to the page. Dave Elsey provides the ye olde feel to the pages, you get a sort of sepia feeling going down, as even the artwork looks to be authentic English Victorian. Both Cornell and Elsey have an eye for detail that is striking, making The Dark Detective stand out as a distinctive feature on the overcrowded shelves of Australian comic stores. I would love to see Cornell tackle a sort of Downunder The Walking Dead adaptation, that would be pretty cool if anyone from Black House is reading.
Dave Elsey once again provides the front cover artwork that is certainly beyond what one would expect from a gothic comic. It's such awesome, almost three dimensional, stuff that I would be inclined to purchase the comic just for the cover alone. Elsey is certainly deserving of an exhibition if any of our Galleries can be arsed to show modern popular culture Australian work rather than Yank or Euro supposed highbrow stuff.
Issue 7 of The Dark Detective comes at you with a couple of extras as Black House show their appreciation of what is rapidly becoming a dedicated fanbase. Besides another one of those Dave Elsey period adverts that always amuse the hell out of me, we get a short story, The Diabolical Doctor Nikola, featuring new Black House franchise The Soldier Legacy and a partial reprint of an Eeek! feature. Nikola via a Christopher Sequeira script with Paul Mason adding the panels, and Eeek! curtsey of the legendary Jason Paulos. How's that for added value friends and neighbours!
So I'm right back in Dark Detective mode, can't wait for the next Issue, Christ Sequeira and team once again delivering a knock out book. I'm intrigued as to where this plot arc is going to go, Moriarity is certainly limbering up in the background, and that cliff hanger could lead to some very trying times for Dr Watson in particular. No compunctions with giving Issue 7 in particular and The Dark Detective as a whole a full recommendation. If you haven't dialled into this comic book yet, or are one of those people who haven't caught the wave of the current explosion of Aussie comic dark genre goodness, then you are in for a treat with The Frankenstein Knights story arc.
You can grab your copy of this Issue, or pass Issues, or a graphic novel collection of the first story arc, via the Black House shop located over at Black Boox. Black House Comics maintain a web presence right about here, click through, and there's even a dedicated Dark Detective website. Forgot to mention the comic will set you back a paltry $5 plus P&H, now that's a bargain considering you get a full colour extravaganza of delight.