Creating a successful comic book is anything but elementary, my dear. And creating one based off of the world’s most popular fictional detective is even more challenging. In Michael Lent’s I, Holmes, we see Sherlock Holmes as we’ve never seen him before: as a surly teenage girl. Unlike most Sherlock Holmes adaptations, the first issue of I, Holmes doesn’t solve many mysteries. Rather, it creates more questions and leaves its readers guessing what exactly just happened.
I, Holmes trails the escapades of I. Rose, a seventeen year old girl with a penchant for trouble, as she navigates the mean streets of modern-age New York City. She has no idea who she is, where she came from, or even her first name. For someone who knows so little, she’s ironically related to the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Again, this falls into the category of her life she knows nothing about. She frequently finds herself on the wrong side of the law, which attracts the attention of a man in a black unicorn mask who tries to balloon bomb her. Just another day in the life of I. Rose, according to her college-aged mentor/forced upon sponsor Annie. But with a new threat on the horizon and a new mystery to solve, for I. Rose, the game is about to officially be afoot.
In its credit, I, Holmes does give a new perspective on the Sherlock Holmes narrative. A little gender swapping rarely hurts a story, and a strong female protagonist is always a welcome sight. And I. Rose definitely channels a Sherlock Holmes type of character. She’s does all but whip out a tobacco pipe and utter, “Elementary, my dear” to her Watson stand-in. She trades Holmes’ classic cocaine addiction for gambling. I. Rose isn’t nearly on the same level as Sherlock himself, but she’s the fifth generation. Some genes and traits are bound to slip by her.
Also, the artwork of I, Holmes has a distinguishing style to it. In a duo effort by Dan Parsons and Marc Rene, the two artists showcase their talents with exciting colors and visually interesting action sequences. The illustrations are not without some minor flaws. The camera angle choices are odd at times, but that’s easy to overlook. Overall, the artwork is one of the comic’s greatest strengths and serve the story well.
However, one of the most puzzling aspects of I, Holmes is the story itself. The first issue doesn’t feel at all like a beginning of a comic book series. It reads as if the reader just happened upon I. Rose in a typical day of her life. And she’s having a very slow-paced day. There’s so much exposition and time spent setting up the world of the comic, there’s apparently no room for a plot. What’s worse, Lent may even be aware of this issue. Case in point, the opening words for I, Holmes are, “Origin Story?” That punctuation choice is very telling.
But the biggest crime committed in I, Holmes is the fact its lead character, who is based off of Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t do any detective work! I mean that punctuation mark. For a character who’s supposed to be so observant, how does I. Rose not know her whole purpose of existing? The closest issue #1 comes to I. Rose performing detective work is talking about investigating something. And then she’s not seen again for the rest of the comic. It could be argued the great mystery is yet to come, but at the rate I, Holmes is going, The Scooby Gang could swoop in there any second and unmask the villain.
If a reader is truly interested in Sherlock Holmes, there’s a better outlet for your fandom than this comic. While I, Holmes is a noble effort in the Sherlock Holmes narrative, it’s best to leave the real detective work to professionals.
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