With all of the Sherlock Holmes revisionism in movies and TV over the past few years, it’s become confusing to determine exactly what Sherlock you’re getting in any new project. In the case of this new graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics, the character hews close to the original novels, although his adventure veers far outside their grounded realism. This Sherlock and his Watson are aging, established investigators living in late 19th-century England. There’s no funny hat on Sherlock, but otherwise the characters are about what you would expect based on the original books. Likewise, the writing and art are classy and refined, giving the whole package an air of literary legitimacy…until the vampires appear.
Yes, Sherlock is battling actual supernatural vampires in this story, pests who are running free in the streets of London and terrorizing the populace. And yet, those vampires are treated seriously in the writing, just matter-of-fact characters that happen to co-exist in otherwise completely normal England, rather than sensationalized larger-than-life villains. As for Sherlock, the story takes place in the aftermath of his battle with Moriarty and presumed death at Reichenbach Falls, coincidentally paralleling the start of the latest season of BBC’s Sherlock TV series. Unlike his TV counterpart, this Sherlock maintains the anonymity of his “death”, allowing him to move more freely around the shadowy outskirts of London as he investigates the vampire outbreak. This unfortunately keeps Watson on the sidelines for most of the book as he’s also left in the dark about his partner’s rebirth.
Writer Sylvain Cordurie takes a by-the-numbers approach to the script, laying out the players and following through in a straight line to the inevitable conclusion without much in the way of character building or subplots. As a result, there’s not much to really draw readers into the story, leaving the art as the main attraction. Luckily, that art is excellent as provided by Laci, with finely detailed and realistic linework that perfectly suits the setting. His vampires don’t morph into ridiculous demonic caricatures, they’re just human-like with a thirst for blood. The serious approach to the vampire characters prevents the tale from descending into supernatural fantasy, although I question the decision to incorporate vampires at all since the story is otherwise completely realistic.
Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London is now available. For more information, visit the Dark Horse Comics website.