Harker by Roger Gibson and Vince Danks from Titan Books.
This comic initially felt like it was going to be some sort of preternatural police procedural. There is no shortage of urban fantasy involving crime and figures that seem to work in a place between reality and what ordinary people believe is fiction on both sides of the law. I was unsure what to initially make of the comic, if it would veer towards the likes of John Constantine, luckily I was really pleased with where it did go, down a rather more original and interesting route.
The case opens, with a second murder, a person eviscerated, brutally mutilated on the steps of St Georges church in Bloomsbury, London, a Hawksmoor church. Two police officers from out of town are soon on the scene.
DS Critchley and DCI Harker are a great creation. Critchley with his slick looks, clean shaven head and goatee and easy patter, is in every way opposite to Harker, an expert in multiple homicide, insightful and knowledgeable in the ways of death, and also rather idiosyncratic in his runners and classic car, but thankfully rather sceptical of anything inhuman and with a strong gut instinct. Somehow able to posses the hard edge of The Sweeny with the intelligence and eruditeness of Morse.
Critchley is a strong copper, investigative, more procedural, and very laddish in his flirtatious and confident manner, and although Harker, sometimes doubts Critchley, like many smart superiors he allows himself to be lead by his sergeant a little bit and there is a dynamic between the characters that makes them work well, and be rather different than the usual partnership.
The investigation enters the world of the unusual as it becomes clear that the famed occult work,
The book of Solomon may hold a key to what has occurred, this leads the investigators to a basement of a salubrious London household, where things are indeed, rather odd. I was pleased to find that this comic, so intelligently written, did not veer into the paranormal, rather using humanities own oddities and predilections to add sufficient colour.
I loved the suspect interviews, rather like a game of cleudo, with various wonderful reasoning’s given for the connection to the deceased, from ‘he was a god in bed, to his ability to bring the dark lord into the world’.
Repeatedly there were scenes created that used the comic book panels to wonderful effect, demonstrating a real understanding of the form, by both artists and writer, a fine example of this is the discussion the two men have in the pub while the scene around them changes, with a silent normal drama going on about them, clever.
The artwork is superlative. Really very nice and the skill is across the board, a birds eye view of London around the British museum being especially pleasing but everything from the facial interactions, the nice use of out if scale images as a back ground, the detail to vehicles, and especially the buildings or should I say architecture brought to the page so clearly and precisely but keeping the overall black and white style, strong and beautifully simple to intricate and detailed. I was very impressed. I must admit, there were occasional panels and it made me wish they were water coloured.
There were a number of subtle drops into the comic that I really loved, the way that Critchley asks a forensics expert if she reads comics, when they talk about the Hawksmoor church, although he could have referenced Alan Moore, I loved how the ‘BOOK’ was obviously a very subtle reference to From Hell and later the mention of David Lynch being brought in for questioning, if a letter B is found under a finger nail, just discreet nods of affection or appreciation, which made me smile.
This was a terrific read, one of the best crime novels for me of the year, pleasingly told and beautifully drawn.