When I was a kid, I fondly remember sitting down with my Dad on Sunday afternoons watching endless reruns of Quincy, M.E, Inspector Morse, Jonathan Creek. All sorts of things that would go on to explain my obsession with true crime when I grew up. Reading Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks’ Harker: The Book of Solomon is like being sat back in front of that big box tv with a box of Jaffa Cakes, my dad ruining every seemingly interminable run of episodes of Cracker. Oh, and there’s satanic cults. Obviously. This is all to say, I really rather enjoyed this one.
The story begins when a disembowelled corpse is found on the steps of a church. The scene is rendered in fantastic detail by Danks’ disturbingly lifelike pencils. Not that I know what a real corpse looks like. Nope. DCI Harker and his assistant DS Critchley look into the seemingly random and brutal crime and stumble upon occult practice, and a mystery surrounding the eponymous Book of Solomon. Now, I am not going to spoil anymore at the risk of becoming like my old man but the story comes off as a love letter to old school detective fiction. Just with a little supernatural flair thrown in to keep things fresh. It makes me nostalgic for a time of dime detective comics that sat on dusty shelves in comic stores. I really loved this aspect of it.
A key success of the book is the dynamic between the two leads. The cynic and the idealist, the technophobe and the whiz, old blood and new blood. This is once again a hallmark of great detective fiction and for good reason. Each character serves as a potential avatar for the audience to live the story through. It reminded me of the likes of Sherlock where the developing camaraderie between the pair was as much a delight to behold as the unfolding mystery. I may be a little biased in this case as I am a sucker for crime and the occult but I genuinely still feel that the satanic nature of the mystery at hand adds that extra layer of fun to the tale.
Visually it is honestly superb. The aforementioned top tier detail in Danks’ unique style coupled with Ben Lopez’s colours adding an incredible contrast befitting of detective noir style fiction. Great use of page space with splashes and more conservative six panel spreads really show an adeptness at the form. The stylistic use of almost photo like montages really key into the genre and tie the comic medium and the story being told together. I also wanted to give a particular shout out to the faithful recreations of London landmarks. Being a dweller of the capital, it’s always nice to see the city being done a solid in media.
Harker may be familiar to some indie diehards already. It has already been round the block in other incarnations going back more than a decade. That being said, this is a perfect point for old fans to return and new ones to join. I found it to be really enjoyable with no previous exposure to the title. Overall, I feel Harker masterfully utilises steadfast features of its genre whilst still managing to find its own voice and weave an intriguing narrative. It is commendable for a small press to hold my attention and make me want for the next instalment. Striking art, compelling characters and a smart mystery all combine to make an enticing package. Should you check it out? The answer, my dear reader, is elementary. I’ll see myself out.
If you want to see more details about Harker: The Book of Solomon, check out the Kickstarter here! What are some of your favourite detective stories? Sound off on both our Twitter and/or Facebook feeds about that and let us know what you thought about Harker: The Book of Solomon!