Written by Karl Bollers
Drawn by Rick Leonardi & Larry Stroman
Published by New Paradigm Studios
I’ve always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes, my mother had all the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the house as I was growing up. Last year New Paradigm Studios took advantage of the fact that most of the stories have entered the public domain and created this series, which re-imagines Holmes and his partner Dr. Charles Watson as Black men living in modern-day Harlem.
Jon Watson is an ex-U.S. Army paratrooper currently working as a medical intern and Holmes is a local Private Investigator, well-respected by the local police and criminal underworld alike. The two men’s lives intersect when a newborn infant found abandoned in a trash can is brought into the hospital where Watson is working, and it appears to be connected to a case that Holmes is working on. Soon the two men are working together in a case that involves a local drug-running operation and deadly mercenaries with ties to the military.
There is an appropriate mix of action and drama in this series, with scenes of gunplay balanced with glimpses into the personal lives of the lead characters. We learn that Watson is estranged from his wife and that they have a young son together. Watson was living in his car but accepts Holmes’ invitation to move in with him. Watson is only working with Holmes at first because of his guilt at being unable to save the infant when it was brought to the hospital, and he wants to help get justice for whoever is responsible, but throughout the first arc we see his respect for Holmes grow, to the point where after the case is solved he is compelled to join him for further cases.
Watson is the real star of this series (hence, his top-billing in the title), and is written as a perfect POV character, as writer Karl Bollers introduces us to Holmes’ world through his eyes. But this is not to give short-drift to Holmes, who is written with a touch of mystery, confidence, quirkiness, and a hint of humor now and then. There are several scenes where we see how Holmes’ legendary deductive skills are aided by modern technology, and it all feels very natural. Likewise, the interplay between Holmes and Watson is written well, as Bollers has an ear for dialog, and makes them sound like real characters the way they talk to each other.
Non-fans of Sherlock Holmes can enjoy this arc, as an action-packed murder mystery with two compelling leads, while those who are fans of the original stories should appreciate the various updates of all the classic Holmes canon. We see updated versions of Holmes’ landlady (for his apartment on Baker Street), Mrs. Hudson, the Baker Street Irregulars (a group of young Harlem kids who sometimes act as Holmes’ informants about what’s going on in the streets), Inspector Lestraud (now Leslie Stroud, a female police detective with ties to Holmes), and we’re also introduced to Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, who is clearly even smarter than his “little brother” (as Mycroft calls him).
The original arc wraps up very neatly with a satisfying conclusion. And it’s very well-drawn by artist Rick Leonardi. That’s issues 1-4. Issue #5 brings in the legendary Larry Stroman as guest-artist. Bollers writes a single-issue story hear which stands on its own, although it is connected to the original arc, as it involves a string of dead infants found abandoned in dumpsters throughout the city, and Watson and Holmes are on the case. Another great story. Bollers, Leonardi, and Stroman all get an A+ for their work.
All five issues have been collected into one volume. You can go to Amazon and order a copy in PRINT, or get the DIGITAL VERSION and read it within minutes on your Kindle, iPad, other tablet or PC. The individual issues are also available on Comixology.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Watson And Holmes #6
This is another single-issue story, by the fill-in creative team of writer Brandon Easton and artist N. Steven Harris. They tell the story of the murdered wife of a local politician, whom Watson happens to hold in very high regard and is therefore reluctant to investigate, while Holmes is strictly about following the clues wherever they may take him. And when Watson and Holmes discover that the politician and his wife had ties to a secret prostitution ring, things get complicated. One review I read of this story compares it to an episode of Law & Order: SVU, which is an apt comparison. There’s a couple of twists and turns that make this story really stand out, all wonderfully illustrated by Harris. In fact this issue just recently won a series of 2014 Glyph Awards, for Writer of The Year, Story of The Year, and Artist of The Year, all of which are very well-deserved, in my opinion. If you’re not sure about making the investment in buying the collected volume just yet, I’d recommend getting this issue first. It’s only $1.99 and is a great entry to the series so if you like it (& I’m sure you will), you’ll most likely enjoy the first arc too. I highly recommend this series and would love to see it continue.