The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes Issue 3 - Arena of Darkness (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
Country

Talk us through it

After events in issue two, Holmes as been imprisoned and is seemingly at the mercy of the homicidal Policeman Lanner. It's Mycroft to the rescue, as Holmes' brother uses his influence to get Holmes out of prison and apparently out of view as a suspect in the murderous happenings at Chisley Manor.

Holmes now believes the chimera is real, after witnessing it attacking Judge Chisley. Intent on discovering the secret behind Chisley Manor and the Lodge of Bellerophon Holmes breaks into Chisley Manor and discovers a secret underground cellar.

Unfortunately for the dashing Detective he has been expected and faces the wraith of the Chifley Brothers and their resident chimera.

Can Holmes get out of this one and is the Lodge of Bellerophon involved in the criminal conspiracy currently gripping London?

Review

"Good man. The game is afoot." - Sherlock Holmes

Got to say Issue three of Dark House's excellent The Dark Detective caught me completely by surprise, I still thought we had a month or two before the Issue hit newsstands. Luckily I managed to grab the final copy at a city outlet, and I must say that with some unseemly haste I tore through the "penny dreadful" in record time. Christopher Sequeria surely does have some engrossing story arcs going down and I was caught up in a rush to see where it might all be heading. Subsequent slower reads gave me a chance to appreciate the artwork and outstanding level of polish this continuing comic series presents in each issue.

To a certain degree Arena of Darkness closes a three issue story centring on the Lodge of Bellerophon while leaving the greater story arc, a criminal conspiracy gripping London that only Holmes has deduced, intact and ongoing. Hence this review is going to be somewhat stunted as I have no wish to give away spoilers as some Reviewers seem intent on doing. Lets just say that The Dark Detective is sort of a new generation's The Phantom, in that it has it's own mythology, elements of which will no doubt enter the fray in future storylines. Overall the story just finished has been engrossing and has had more twist and turns than a Swiz watch. It stands as a credit to writer Christopher Sequeria. Arena of Darkness was a fitting climax though I had one small gripe with it.

Those of us with an attention span beyond the average Twilight fan, i.e. anything above a sea cucumber, will remember that issue two, Verdict of Horror finished with Holmes being shot at point blank range in the chest. One of the tantalising thoughts between issues was how was Sequeria going to write himself out of this development. A dead Holmes doesn't speak volumes about the continued likelihood of Dark Detective issues after all. Sequeria does manage to provide a logical solution, but it's one of those plot developments that harken back to a by gone era. I'm actually applauding Sequeria for the plot device while also highlighting it as a minor gripe. Way back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth the trick to getting people to tune into next episode of a Television show was to throw on a major cliff hanger at the end of each episode of a series. Generally this involved one of the major characters facing a life threatening situation where there's very little chance of them escaping. The next episode would either simply not reference the cliff hanger or come out of left field with a solution. Sequeria has gone with the left field approach here, and hey I'm not telling, go read the comic to find out. I'm left either applauding Sequeria's writing here, as a wink to a former more na´ve era of story telling, or wondering if the Writer took the easy way out with the solution. Go read the comic and get back to me with your own thoughts.

Overall I'm more than happy with Christopher Sequeria's writing to date and besides the odd moment through the first three issues am more than prepared to hand out a gold star here. For those wondering about attention to detail, and there must be at least one of you, the timelines, story arcs, and mythology is at no time being compromised because the plot demands it. The Dark Detective is remaining true to it's own storyboards. For example, Freda, the servant girl from issue one, is found dead in the hidden cellar under Chifley Manor. Holmes had previously voiced concerns about the girl's welfare, and as it transpires he was right with his concerns. Right there a story arc not dropped and a minor character effectively given a send off.

With issue three concluding one story arc we are still left with a couple of pieces of the puzzle that seemingly have been left abandoned at the side of the board. Where did Moriarity, at least in literature Holmes' nemesis, disappear to, and what happened to the promised Mary Shelley story arc? We are of course in issue three left with a wink to The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of Holmes more famous cases and the blueprint for a whole bunch of gothic horror outings, but I'm not convinced this will be visited again. No doubt the game is afoot, and all will be revealed in future issues.

Dave Elsey continues to amaze and delight with his cover artwork. It has this modern caricature style to it while at the same time fully encapsulating the Victorian era the comic is set in. One of the highlights of picking up each issue of The Dark Detective is seeing what treat Elsey has in store for us. If I haven't mentioned it before, Black House should run up some tees and posters using the covers, I'd be all over those like a rash in a VD clinic.

Inside the covers we get another example of the sterling production values Dark House are bringing to their products. The first page, reverse of the front cover, brings everyone up to speed with developments thus far, the panels are of an excellent standard and are easy to read, and the period orientated "comic advertisements" for various dubious products never ceases to bring a smile to my face. All round excellent package one would have to say.

Summary Execution ...

Arena of Darkness finishes off a major storyline that began in Issue one, The Claws of the Chimera, in grade style. On the bright side of the page there's still plenty going down to keep Black House happily publishing The Dark Detective for the foreseeable future. I'm now really looking forward to Issue 4 to see where the team might take us next, there's certainly been a lot of winks to the audience, but how many of those are red herrings?

This review series I fear is rapidly going to descend into the trials and tribulations of my gaining copies of each issue of the comic. My local Newsagent clearly needs to run into a clown wielding an axe, as he proved hopelessly inept at getting the comic book in. Shouldn't this be computerised or something? I'm going to march off to a neighbouring township where they do get the comic in and damn well ensure I'm covered. More on that development next review. Did I mention post apocalyptic zombie action last review? We're days away from the first novella issued by Black House and I'm starting to worry about sourcing a copy of that one. Fingers crossed folks, keep checking our "Library of the Damned" section for a review.

If you haven't got into The Dark Detective yet then you are missing out in a major way. It's a superb comic series and you will enjoy. If wanting to catch up with Mr Holmes then drop Black House a line, their website is in our links section, and get hooked up. Full recommendation friends and neighbours, miss out at your own peril.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

Another solid issue that has me sweating on the release of the next one!