Harker: The Book of Solomon is a graphic novel by Roger Gibson with art by Vince Danks (available August 28, 2012).
When a series of gruesome cult killings take place near the British Museum, DCI Harker and his assistant DS Critchley are called to London to solve the case.
Middle class satanists, dusty old bookshops, a labyrinth under the museum, a frantic car chase, and wry, cutting humor all combine in this love letter to classic British detective television series.
What I really miss about my childhood, besides the lack of any serious responsibility and bills of course, is the fact that any time there was a major crime involving a Goth, it was always evidence of a satanic cult’s grand design in action. We even had our own spooky county road through the woods that was supposed to go by one of their sacrificial tables. Sure it may have been a slab of concrete, but the Satanists were real, I tells ya. It’s this kind of unambiguous, knee-jerk reaction to crime that I loved about Harker: Book of Solomon.
At its core, Harker is a wonderfully written, beautifully drawn Gothic novel married with a buddy-cop show like Lethal Weapon or Starsky and Hutch. Just imagine it as a slightly more gruesome episode of Scooby Doo. Scooby happens to be a bald womanizer and Shaggy is a cynical, bitter British Detective Inspector and Velma is their unshakable, dead-body-loving coroner.
You got that image in your head? Good. Hold on to that. Now the stage is properly set for DCI Harker, his partner DS Critchley, and Jenny, the plucky cutter of the dead, as they try to figure out what ritual style killings have to do with a satanic cult and an ancient occult text, reportedly bound by bits of human skin.
The book opens with a murder (don’t they all?); the second in a week. Harker and his partner are called to London-town to assist, you know, being experts on serial murders and such. Things get spooky fast and what remains constant is Harker’s unflinching skepticism. He is cynical, squeamish around dead bodies, and believes in good, solid police work.
It’s the characters that make the comic come together. Well that and the art, but more on that in a bit. Harker and Critchley make a great pair. Harker is the cut-and-dried, abrasive intellectual who has seen it all and gets excited when he finds a first edition of A Study in Scarlet at the London Library. Critchley, on the other hand, is the Watson to Harker’s Holmes. He is a womanizer and emotional foil. He goes with what he sees on the surface as opposed to Harker and his gut feelings.
Aside from characters, where this book really shines is in its construction and art. Drawn by Vince Danks, the art is detailed, nuanced, and really sells the Gothic atmosphere. Lacking any third person narration, each panel is wonderfully organized and drawn so you can see everything happening clearly. There is a particularly wonderful scene set in a pub, which includes an exchange between Harker and Critchley. The two inspectors hardly move at all and instead banter back and forth about the case. What stands out about this scene is all the action going on in the panels. It’s as if there is a whole other story going on around them, but they are wrapped up in the case. It shows more about the characters’ relationship as friends and co-workers than almost the whole rest of the novel. It’s a great scene and wonderfully done.
Originally a British comic, Harker: The Book of Solomon is an example of what I wish American comics were able to do more. It is a serious, well-developed story that blends art and words to make a fantastic comic. Unless someone is willing to put in the legwork and dig up the gems that are being put out by the indies out there, you’ll be hard pressed to find a book like this put out by the major publishers. It’s a solid story with great art, and if you are a fan of crime comics, I highly recommend it. Hopefully they will manage to bring over the next Harker story, Harker: The Woman in Black, for more 1990s Goth goodness.
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