The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes Issue 1 - The Claws of the Chimera (2009)

Only he could stop the shadows from swallowing London. And only his single remaining friend could stop the shadows from swallowing him.
Editor Baden Kirgan
Publisher Black House Comics
Writer Christopher Sequeria
Layouts J Scherpenhuizen
Art and Colours Phil Cornell
Cover Dave Elsey
Genre Gothic

Talk us through it

In London 1887 a crate is being delivered to a secret society late at night, with something extremely deadly in it about to be unleashed. Meanwhile a man staggers into Dr Watson's practice with what appears to be a knife would to his chest demanding to be taken to Sherlock Holmes. Arriving by hansom cab at Holmes's apartments Watson is amazed when the super sleuth uncovers a scam the "victim" is running to gain access to Holmes's valuable memorabilia.

Later Holmes and Watson travel to Chisley House with a Scotland Yard Detective who thinks a new case will intrigue Holmes. Chisley is the home of a Judge who has a very low opinion of Holmes's ability, it also coincidental houses the most macabre collection of creatures outside a crypto zoologist's fevered imagination. A murder has been committed within the collection room and the signs are it was done by a chimera, a mythical beast.

Can Holmes and Watson deduce what happened or will the chimara strike again?


"Black days Watson, I fear I have never seen blacker days!" - Sherlock Holmes

I wasn't aware of The Dark Detective until Leigh over at the Southern Horror Yahoo group decided to broadcast the news that the first edition had gone on sale. "Sherlock Holmes meets Hammer horror" was the word on the street so I was immediately keen on tracking down a copy. This proved harder than expected with sales having already overwhelmed supply. In desperation I contacted Baden Kirgan at Black House Comics to see if the comic was still available. Pay dirt folks, Baden proved easy to deal with and could not only supply me a copy but if I waited a week could also include the second issue under the same postage cost. Now that's the service that the management text books harp on about but you seldom get in real life. So here we go now with SMinds first comic/graphical novel review thanks to Baden Kirgan and Leigh.

In my sad and sorry career as a some time reviewer I have never actually looked at a comic critically hence you may find this review somewhat different to normal graphic novel/comic reviews as it's the blind leading the blind kids.

Guess the place to start is Dave Elsey's excellent cover artwork. Simply wow, a totally unique and wonderful portrait of the master sleuth himself. I've never seen Holmes realised in quite that fashion before and immediately knew I had something special in my hands. My wife, a professional artist and ceramicist in her own right, was gushing over the cover so I guess from an artistic stand point we are talking excellent work here. It's emotive, immediately gets the point across that The Dark Detective is going to take a different slant to Doyle's sleuth, and heck I want a poster for my study wall. Wonder if Black House have thought of making t-shirts of the covers?

The well above average artwork extends from the cover to the actual comic panels through out the first edition. Bare with me as I'm totally colour blind so my perception here may be different from yours. In my reality night time panels were coloured with a bluish gray look, that not only got across the notion that it was dark but also ensured the panels were clear and easy to decipher. Conversely daytime panels have an almost sepia quality to them with a thoroughly original look and feel. I was baying at the moon at the attention to detail provided, look for a poster in the background about Mr Hyde, and the overall look and feel. Overall I got a sort of 1950ish vibe about the artwork and if I had to make a comparison would point to early editions of Tales From The Crypt. The rendering of characters is more geometric than the directions things took from the 1970s. The setting of the actual story is 1887 London and the artwork puts you right in that timeframe. Folks think we may have a classic comic on our hands here.

One final note on the artwork, which I really can't praise enough for it's exquisite originality and evocative leanings, there's a real bonus for readers just inside the back cover. Not entirely sure if other Down Under horror devotees are going to get this but comic book fans will be smiling. Look for ads for "Rontgen Ray Spectacles", wonder if you can see through chick's clothing as opposed to the more modern glasses that they tell me didn't work as expected. Comic book readers were up skirting before it became fashionable folks! "Amusing Aquatic Simians", what no castle and smiling "sea monkey" family? And Colonel Moran's Air Gun that's sure to become the scourge of hansom cabs in your neighbourhood. Excellent stuff, totally unexpected, and a real hoot at the end of the comic. Accompanying the ads is artwork that captures the more modern products whilst given them the "ye olde world" treatment and charm.

Wild colonial boy Christopher Sequeria kicks a major with the actual story, which is why we are in country right? For Holmes purists there's enough from the traditional tales and movies to keep you entertained. Sherlock himself, Dr Watson, Mrs Hudson, and introduced late in the piece the infamous Moriarty. For those from the Hammer neck of the woods dialling in, murder most foul and the hint of brimstone to keep you going.

Sequeria's story line at first appears simplicity in itself, something deadly in a crate unleashed at, we think, Chisely House, a secret society related to Bellerophon (mythical slayer of the chimera) the likely suspects, and Holmes hot on the case. However Sequeria has muddied the waters with Davey Ellis, a supposed victim of the chimera, not having been picked at random according to the super sleuth. There's a sub plot involving one of the Chisely servant girls and Ellis that may come into play. And just how does Moriarty fit into the plot? The spear of Bellorphon, an exhibit at Chisely House doesn't need dusting for those trying to join the dots. Whether or not we are dealing with an actual chimera remains to be seen. Will The Dark Detective go fully downtown to horror-ville or will it erect it's tent in the countryside? Issue 1 - The Claws of the Chimera certainly throws up a lot of questions and demands you keep buying into The Dark Detective to get the answers.

The Writer hints at aspects of Holmes character that may or may not become relevant in later issues, but the immediately notable advantage is that the Sequeria is not going to be settling for static characters. In issue one Holmes is in something of a blue funk because he does not have the proof needed to convince Scotland Yard that a criminal conspiracy is underway in the city. Watson has born the brunt of this funk and is in fact loath to spend time with Holmes. Watson further hints the Holmes may be into substances more exotic than his pipe tobacco.

I was certainly impressed with Sequeria's venturing into the dark genre. Chisley House contains a collect of the most bizarre creatures you could ever hope to stumble across outside a Dante painting. Loved the whole concept of a "rogue taxidermist" who combines animal parts to create creatures from legend and literature. Chris Sequeria has his finger on the pulse of Hammer, and you can almost hear Vincent Price laughing manically in the background.

The only problem I had with Sequeria's plot was the dreaded "To Be Continued" that popped up in the last frame which had me gnashing my teeth and crying to the heavens. Then I remembered I had Issue 2 so had to stop the major dummy spit I was having. Damn, just when you feel a good drama queen moment happening as well. Actually given the complexities of Christopher Sequeria's plot we may need quite a number of issues to get through the story. Personally I'm not against episodic releases as it gives you something to look forward to in the next issue, and heck for the publisher guarantees you are going to continue to buy the magazine.

Summary Execution ...

I certainly had a whole bunch of fun with The Dark Detective package and enjoyed both the artwork and story line immensely. Black House can keep this comic coming at me as for sure I'll be lapping up each issue. Just the right blend of Conan Doyle detective work and Hammer Horror gothic overtones has me hooked and fired up for more Dark Detective adventures.

The comic is selling for the excellent price of around $5 dollars per issue and is available from most news agencies. If unable to located a copy then ask your newsagent to talk to Gordon and Gouch the distributors. If not in Australia then you are going to have to talk direct to Black House who can make arrangements to ship issues overseas, currently they do not have an online purchase option but are working on getting one happening. As soon as you can purchase online I'm going to be all over that as my local newsagent is something of a tool to be honest. Plans are to release The Dark Detective bi-monthly but I have the feeling that Editor Baden Kirgan is going to receive a lot of shrill demands in coming weeks to spend up that cycle, yes the comic is that good. Issues one and two are currently available, no you can't have mine as they are already housed in one of those comic collection folders I didn't know about till last week.

Full recommendation on The Dark Detective to all readers, this is the comic horror fans have been waiting on. It's intelligent, has great artwork, and the story line is superb. Drop what you are doing and rush on down to your newsagent, you wont regret it.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

Finally a comic that Down Under readers can be proud of. Freaking place an order today kids!