1/07/2011. Contributed by Neale Monks
Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies by Ian Edington and Davide Fabbri. pub: Titan Books/Wildstorm. 144 page softcover graphic novel. Price: GBP 14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-85768-051-8.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.com and www.wildstorm.com
Sherlock Holmes has found himself up against the undead before, but never in quite the way as portrayed in 'Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies'. As a Holmes fan, as well as someone who enjoys horror fiction, this reviewer opened up this 144-page graphic novel with considerable enthusiasm. But did 'Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies' work? But the combination of Victorian detective with modern horror work? The short answer is yes, but there are a couple of minor niggles that might annoy some readers.
The book opens with a prologue that explains where the zombies came from. It then zips forwards to what initially seems an unrelated story, but very quickly Holmes and Watson find themselves drawn into the mysterious deaths (and subsequent reanimation) for two underground railway engineers. Things quickly spiral out of control as the zombies become more and more numerous, with the British government eventually losing control of the entire city of London. With Holmes' brother, Mycroft, leading the official response to the zombie threat, Holmes and Watson take on the role of commandos, making their way deep into zombie territory as they try to find out who's controlling the zombies and threatening to overthrow not just London but the entire British Empire!
It's all good stuff and though less sophisticated than 'The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen', it has a very similar sort of flavour. There's a nice combination of classic Holmesian fiction with steampunk tropes such as zeppelins and other creative anachronisms. Overall, the story works well and the two lead characters behave in a way broadly compatible with Sherlock Holmes as originally portrayed by Arthur Conan Doyle, ie with Holmes being as much the man of action as anything else. Nitpickers might argue whether steampunk-era robots could ever be as convincingly human as is required in one or two points in the story but, that aside, the Victorian world as described by Ian Edginton is pretty convincing.
The art is generally very good; clean, sharply drawn and carefully coloured. One of the more noticeable things about the book is the way the artist Davide Fabbri switches between somewhat limited palettes at each stage of the story. So the prologue is coloured with mostly warm yellows and ghoulish greens, flashbacks with mostly greys, underground scenes with browns and blues, and so on. This gives the book a more obviously episodic feel, each scene having its own distinctive mood and tone.
Overall, 'Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies' is a good story well executed. If the evil genius behind the zombies won't come as a surprise to anyone and the twist at the end of the tale is even more obvious, these are minor flaws in a story that's basically all about action, adventure and, of course, zombies. Recommended.
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